Rowan County, North Carolina
Walter L. Lingle
President Emeritus of Davidson College
The Brady Printing Company
Statesville, North Carolina
2*2 Sf 4 /")£ 6
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The Formative Years 7
From The Division To The Centennial 25
Centennial, Civil War, Reconstruction . . . . 33
The New Era 47
IT WAS at the request of the session and some members of Thyatira that
I undertook to write this history. Without their expressed wishes and
encouragement I would not have thought of undertaking it. A glance at the
authorities consulted will give some intimation of the amount of work
involved, but it has been a work of love.
The ties that bind me to Thyatira are very strong. First of all I am in-
debted to the Church for all that it has done for me and meant to me person-
ally. And then there are strong family ties. I remember when my father
and mother and their seven children sat together in the church Sunday after
Sunday. In due time all seven of those children united with Thyatira on
profession of their faith. My grandmother, Elizabeth Fisher Lingle and her
nine children were also members of Thyatira. Many of these loved ones
sleep in the old cemetery.
Although I am wholly responsible for what has been written in this
history, I am greatly indebted to many others for the assistance they have
given me. The pastor and a number of the members of the church furn-
ished valuable information. Later they read the completed manuscript and
made helpful suggestions. Dr. Thomas H. Spence, Director of the His-
torical Foundation at Montreat, North Carolina, furnished valuable in-
formation from historical records that I do not have. Mr. William D. Kiz-
ziah, Register of Deeds of Rowan County, searched out and copied records
on file in his office. Later he graciously read the manuscript and suggested
helpful additions. Dr. Chalmers Davidson, Professor of History in Davidson
College, and Director of the Library, also read the manuscript, and made a
number of suggestions. I make mention of all these not only because they
helped and encouraged me, but also because they thereby rendered a real
service to the Church.
This book is published with the hope and prayer that the past history
of the Church may be an inspiration to the present generation, and to gen-
erations to come.
THE FORMATIVE YEARS
THYATIRA is one of the oldest Presbyterian churches west of the Yadkin
River, if not the very oldest. In fact, it is one of the oldest Presbyterian
churches in North Carolina. It is located in Rowan County, ten miles west
of Salisbury on the highway from Salisbury to Mooresville.
The deed for the land on which the church and the cemetery are lo-
cated was made on January 17, 1753, and is registered in the courthouse
in Salisbury. A duplicate deed was made on January 18, 1753, and it is
also registered in Salisbury. It seems to have been a custom in those days
to make duplicate deeds. Nobody knows why, unless it was to increase the
fees of the register.
The church still has in its possession what seems to be the original of
the duplicate deed. I have a typed copy of this deed made in 1910. It covers
three large typewritten pages. Let me quote the first paragraph of this old
deed, quaint spelling and all, as it contains some valuable history:
"THIS INDENTURE, made the Eighteenth day of January in ye
year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Fifty Three, Be-
tween Jno Lynn of ye County of Anson in the Province of North
Carolina, of the one part, And the Congregation Known by ye
Congregation belonging to ye Lower meeting house between ye
yatkin river & the Cutabo Do, adhering to a Minister Licensed
From or by a Presbytary Belonging to & the old synod of Phila-
Note, first of all, that Rowan was still a part of Anson County when
the deed was made. Rowan was set off as a separate county on March 27,
1753, and named for Matthew Rowan, who was Governor of the State at
that time. When Rowan was first set off, it included a great deal more terri-
tory than it does now.
8 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
The deed indicates that there was a Presbyterian congregation in this
community prior to the making of the deed. Whether it was organized into
a church, we do not know, but there must have been some sort of organiza-
tion as it would hardly have been possible to make a deed to an unorganized
We also learn from the deed that there was already a Presbyterian
meeting house in this community, known as the "Lower Meeting House."
Where it was located and what kind of a meeting house it was, we do not
know. The fact that it was called the "Lower Meeting House" indicates
that there must have been an "Upper Meeting House" somewhere. Dr.
Rumple, in his History of Rowan, suggests that it may have been up on
By December, 1755, the name had been changed to "Cathey's Meeting
House." The Rev. Hugh McAden in his diary of that date, refers to it
as "Cathey's." The Catheys were prominent people in the community and
their lands adjoined the church property. William Cathey was one of the
first elders in the church. Dr. Foote tells us that the name was changed to
Thyatira about the year 1764.
It would be interesting to know why Thyatira was at first called a
"meeting house." Was it because the congregation had not yet been fully
organized into a church? Was it because the house used for worship was
also a general meeting place of the community for various purposes? Or
was it because the Anglican, or Episcopal, Church was the State Church
prior to the Revolutionary War, and had a monopoly on the word "church,"
while the churches of other denominations were known as "meeting houses."
I am inclined to the latter view.
Another significant statement in the deed is that the congregation of the
Lower Meeting House adhered to a minister licensed by a presbytery belong-
ing to the old synod of Philadelphia. Thereby hangs a tale. The first synod
was organized in Philadelphia in 1717 and was called the Synod of Phila-
delphia. It was the only synod until 1741, when there was a split in the
synod caused by a heated controversy on two points. One concerned the
education of young ministers. The old-timers felt that they should be sent
back to the universities of Scotland for their education. Others believed
that they should be educated right here in America, in Presbyterian schools
that were derisively called "log colleges."
The other point of controversy was even more bitter. It was concern-
ing revivals. Between 1735 and 1740 there swept over New England and
the middle Colonies a great revival, known as the "Great Awakening,"
Dr. Walter Lee Lingle
President Emeritus of Davidson College
The Formative Years 9
under the leadership of such men as Jonathan Edwards and George White-
field. These revivals were sometimes accompanied by shouting, swooning,
rolling on the ground and other excesses. The old-timers would have noth-
ing to do with this "new enthusiasm," as they called it. To make matters
worse, some of the younger ministers said that the trouble with the old-
timers was that they had never been soundly converted. So the Presbyterian
Church was divided into "Old Side" and "New Side."
In 1741, the New Side brethren pulled out of the Synod of Phila-
delphia and organized the New Side Synod of New York, leaving the Old
Side brethren in the Synod of Philadelphia. Thus there were two distinct
Presbyterian denominations for a number of years. Happily these two
synods were re-united into one synod in 1758, and its name was the Synod
of New York and Philadelphia. It was the only synod for the next thirty
years and served as a General Assembly until the General Assembly of
the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was organized in
1788-1789- Now it was during the division into Old Side and New Side
that the deed for the Thyatira land was made, and the deed takes the pains
to say that their minister adhered to the Old Side Synod of Philadelphia.
A controversy concerning revivals split Thyatira congregation wide open
about fifty years later, as we shall see.
We also learn from the deed that the congregation had a licensed
minister at the time the deed was made. Who the minister was or whether
he was a stated supply or a home missionary or a traveling evangelist, we
do not know. We do know that Rev. John Thompson, an old side minister
preached here as early as 1751. We also know that quite a number of home
missionaries were being sent into the South about that time, but most of
them belonged to the New Side, which was more progressive and aggressive
than the conservative Old Side.
The most noted of these traveling evangelists was the Rev. Hugh Mc-
Aden, who was a New Side minister. He visited practically all of the
Presbyterian settlements in North Carolina. Fortunately, he kept a diary,
much of which has been preserved in Foote's Sketches of North Carolina.
The diary tells us that he visited "Cathey's Meeting House" on the last
Sabbath in December, 1755, and says that "a number were exceeding urgent
upon me and very desirous to join with Rocky River in a call to me to
come and settle among them." The matter fell through because McAden
was New Side and some of the old-timers wanted an Old Side minister.
Not only so, but Rocky River adhered to a minister of the New Side.
10 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
In 1764 the Synod of New York and Philadelphia appointed the Rev.
Elihu Spencer and the Rev. Alexander McWhorter "to go southward, and
particularly to North Carolina" as missionaries to organize churches, to
help them in adjusting their bounds, ordain elders, and administer the
Sacraments. These two brethren evidently visited "Cathey's Meeting House"
but we are not told what they did. At any rate the minutes of the Synod
tell us that "Cathey's Settlement" and Fourth Creek called Mr. Spencer in
1765, but he did not accept. Foote says that it was about this time the name
of the Church was changed to Thyatira. However, in the minutes of the
Synod of 1774, it was still called Cathey's.
After the manuscript of this history had gone to the printer, a
transcript of an interesting court order, on record in Salisbury, was sent
to me by Mr. W. D. Kizziah, Register of Deeds. The court in session in
Salisbury in August 1770, took the following action:
"The Presbyterian Congregation of Cathey's Settlement by their Elders
and others have signified and in open Court certified to the Justices there-
of, that they have built a Meeting House in the Settlement aforesaid, called
and known by the name of the Presbyterian Frame Meeting House, for the
Publick Worship of God according to the discipline of the Church of
'tis therefore ordered by the Court
That the said Presbyterian Meeting House be deemed and held a Publick
licensed Meeting House, and that all those who shall hereafter meet therein,
shall be intitled to all the Immunities and Privileges granted by the several
Acts of Parliament in such cases made and provided: And also that the
above Certificate and this Order be registered."
This document indicates that the church had elders and was fully
organized prior to 1770. It seems to have had a frame building by that
date. I have always heard that the original building was of logs. The
document also indicates that the name Thyatira had not yet been adopted,
and that Foote was mistaken in thinking that it was adopted in 1764. Note
that it was still called a Meeting House, and that it had to be licensed by
the Courts before it could be used for public worship. The Anglican ( Epis-
copal) Church was still the Established Church in North Carolina, sup-
ported by public taxation, and no other denomination was permitted to
hold services without permission of the State authorities. All this was
changed after the Revolutionary War, when complete religious liberty was
granted to all denominations. This document tends to confirm my belief
that Thyatira was at first called a Meeting House because the Anglicans
The Formative Years 11
(Episcopalians) had a monopoly on the use of the word Church.
The Thyatira congregation had great difficulty in securing a permanent
pastor. There were just not enough ministers to provide for the many new
churches and preaching points. In the minutes of the Synod of New York
and Philadelphia for 1770, 1771 and 1774, the people of Thyatira made
urgent pleas to the Synod to send them a minister. John Barr, who was
an elder in the church back in those days, in his "Early Religious Experiences
of John Barr" says: "About the year 1772 the Rev. Mr. Harris took charge
of the Thyatira congregation for one or two years." The minutes of the
Synod make no mention of this fact. Thus it seems that the church strug-
gled on as best it could for nearly twenty-five years, with temporary supplies
and visiting missionaries, but no permanent pastor.
But it is about time for us to inquire as to who these people were who
laid the foundation of this church in toil and prayers, and no doubt tears.
Practically all of them were Scotch-Irish from Pennsylvania. Let us not be
misled by the term. They did not have a drop of Irish blood in their veins.
They were Scotsmen who moved from Scotland to North Ireland when
that part of Ireland had been depopulated by war. They seldom inter-
married with the Irish and if they ever did they had to bring their children
up in the Roman Catholic Church. In after years, some of them and many
of their descendants migrated to America. The large majority of them
settled in Pennsylvania, which had been thrown open by William Penn
to people of all beliefs.
Along about 1735 many of the Scotch-Irish of Pennsylvania began to
move southward into the Valley of Virginia and from there into the Caro-
linas. Shortly after that time they began to arrive in Rowan and to settle
on well-watered, fertile lands. Of course they had to clear lands and build
their homes — the Indians had not been away very long. When I was a lad
I often found Indian arrows on our farm. These Scotch-Irish from Penn-
sylvania, and a few Scotsmen direct from Scotland, laid the foundations
of this church.
It is well to note here that there was another strain of migrants, of a
different nationality, moving down through the Valley of Virginia into
the Carolinas about the same time as the Scotch-Irish. They were the so-
called "Pennsylvania Dutch," which is a misnomer. They were not Dutch
at all, but Protestant Germans, Reformed and Lutheran, who migrated
from the upper Rhineland to Pennsylvania to escape oppression and perse-
cution. The Pennsylvania Germans settled in the eastern and southern
12 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
parts of Rowan, while the Scotch-Irish settled in the northern and western
parts. At first the line of demarcation was pretty clear, but after about
fifty years the descendants of the Pennsylvania Germans began to move
into Thyatira community, and as the years have gone by they have made
a substantial contribution to the membership of the church in numbers
and in character.
Dr. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle
Being unable to secure a pastor in any other way, Thyatira proceeded
to raise one of her own, and made a tremendous success of it. That one
was the Rev. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle, D.D., who was ordained and in-
stalled as pastor of Thyatira by Orange Presbytery on August 2, 1777. That
is the date given on the stone that marks his grave. Some writers say that
it was April 2, 1777. He continued as pastor until his death on June 21,
1811, although during the last few years of his life he was incapacitated by
illness. It was during his active pastorate of thirty years that Thyatira be-
came thoroughly organized and thoroughly instructed in the Scriptures and
in the doctrines and government of the Presbyterian Church. Those were
the formative years in which the ideals and traditions of Thyatira were
molded and fixed.
Dr. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle was born in Lancaster County, Pennsyl-
vania, August 23, 1746. His parents, Alexander and Agnes McCorkle,
had migrated to Pennsylvania from the north of Ireland. In 1756, when
their son was about ten years of age, they moved to Rowan County, North
Carolina and settled several miles west of the present location of Thyatira.
So Dr. McCorkle grew up as a Thyatira boy. Even when he was still a boy
on the farm, it was evident that he had an unusually bright mind. In due
time he was sent to Dr. David Caldwell's famous Classical School, on the
edge of Greensboro, to prepare for college.
In 1768 he entered Princeton, of which the distinguished Scotsman
and patriot, Dr. John Witherspoon, was President. James Madison, who
was to become President of the United States, was a student there at the
same time. It was said that Dr. McCorkle resembled another President
of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, and that they were sometimes mis-
taken for each other. They were both tall and well built, and had the same
general features and complexion.
Graduating from Princeton in 1772, young McCorkle proceeded to
study theology under his uncle, the Rev. Joseph Montgomery. On October
15, 1773, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New York. That
date is given on the stone that marks his grave. He was sent by the Presby-
The Formative Years 13
tery to do home mission work in Virginia. After he had labored there about
two years, he was called to Thyatira. According to Dr. Eli W. Caruthers,
he was received into Orange Presbytery as a licentiate on October 1, 1776.
At that time Orange Presbytery included most of North Carolina. Concord
Presbytery was not established until 1795. Orders were taken for his early
ordination and installation as pastor of Thyatira, but for reasons not given,
the ordination and installation were postponed until August 2, 1777.
The Revolutionary War was on when Dr. McCorkle became pastor
of Thyatira. Like practically all Presbyterian ministers of that era, he was
an ardent patriot on the side of American independence. The records in-
dicate that a considerable number of men from the Thyatira congregation
enlisted in the American army. Dr. Caruthers, who as a boy sat under the
ministry of Dr. McCorkle, tells us that when General William Lee David-
son, for whom Davidson College was named, was killed at the battle of
Cowan's Ford on the Catawba River, February 1, 1781, he was wearing
Dr. McCorkle's overcoat. He and General Davidson were born in the same
county in Pennsylvania, both were brought to North Carolina by their
parents while they were still young boys, and they were always warm
On July 2, 1776, Dr. McCorkle married Miss Margaret Gillespie of
Salisbury, the daughter of Mrs. Elizabeth Maxwell Steele* by her first hus-
band. She was evidently a very attractive woman and made him a good
wife. Dr. Foote tells us that they had ten children, six of whom survived
him. Five daughters and one son are mentioned by name in his will.
Dr. Caruthers says that Dr. McCorkle came into possession of some
Negro slaves through his marriage, but that they were a financial liability.
They were indolent and he was indulgent. A neighbor reported passing by
a large field and observing that the slaves were asleep on one side of the
field and their plowhorses grazing, while Dr. McCorkle was sitting in a
fence corner on the other side of the field, poring over a large volume with
pen in hand making notes. He must have had quite a number of slaves as
in his will, made in January, 1806, he willed nine slaves by name and a
number of unnamed children to different members of his family. It seems
strange enough today that a minister of the Gospel should have owned,
raised, worked and sold human beings as slaves. I mention this, not to
criticize Dr. McCorkle, but to show how times have changed.
*On October 7, 1948 the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a granite
monument to the memory of Elizabeth Maxwell Steele in Thyatira Cemetery. In
her will she directed that she should be buried there, and there is good evidence that
her wishes were carried out, although there has been no marker to her grave in recent
14 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
Dr. McCorkle was an able and forceful preacher, and preached to the
times in which he lived. He thundered out in the pulpit against the wave
of crime and immorality that followed in the wake of the Revolutionary
War. He also preached against the wave of French infidelity that swept
over this country in connection with the French Revolution. There were
also strong sermons on the evidences of Christianity.
He was a natural born teacher. The way in which he instructed his
people in the Scriptures and doctrines of the Church is very interesting. Dr.
Foote in his Sketches quotes a statement from Dr. McCorkle in which he
explains his plan. He divided his congregation into seven or eight divisions
consisting of about fifteen families each. Then he submitted to each division
a list of questions from the Bible, beginning with Genesis in the Old
Testament and with Matthew in the New Testament. An hour or more
before the preaching service on Sunday morning he would catechize a
division on the questions on the Old Testament, and on Sunday afternoon
he would catechize them on the New Testament. In this connection he
would hear the young people recite the Shorter Catechism. These exercises
were attended not only by the division being quizzed, but by many other
members of the congregation. Thus he moved on from division to division
and from one book in the Bible to another. Dr. McCorkle adds this state-
ment: "I have found it profitable to myself and my people, and can venture
to say that as fas ar I have proceeded, there is not a congregation on the
continent better acquainted with the Scriptures."
But it was in his classical school, which he called Zion-Parnassus, that
he showed his greatest teaching ability. That was a unique name for a
school but it was significant. Zion was the holy hill in Jerusalem on which
the temple was built. Parnassus was a mountain in Greece where it was
supposed the Muses, who inspired literary men, dwelt. In naming his
school Zion-Parnassus, Dr. McCorkle was expressing his conviction that
religion and learning should always go hand in hand. This noted school was
located about one mile east of the church. The historical marker on the
highway across from my boyhood home tells where it was located. Foote
in his Sketches has this paragraph: "The first class that graduated at the
State University at Chapel Hill consisted of seven scholars; six of these had
been pupils of Dr. McCorkle. His students were, in after life, found on the
bench, in the chair of State and forty-five in the pulpit." He says that he got
the number of ministers from Mrs. McCorkle, who survived her husband
about ten years. It is interesting to note that Zion-Parnassus had a depart-
■ . .
Henry T (jar ley
The Church As It Originally Appeared
The Formative Years 15
ment in which Dr. McCorkle taught his pupils how to teach. It is said to
have been the first Normal School in America.
Dr. McCorkle did a notable work in helping to found the University
of North Carolina. The history of the University, by Dr. Kemp P. Battle,
gives the facts in the case. Dr. McCorkle was one of the original forty
trustees of the University, and served in that capacity from 1789 to 1801.
Dr. Battle tells us that the original board of forty trustees "was composed
of the greatest men in the State — senators, governors, judges of the Supreme
Court of the United States and the State. Dr. McCorkle was the solitary
preacher and the solitary teacher. He was one of the best friends the Uni-
versity ever had; worked for it, begged for it and preached for it." He took
up a collection for the University right here in Thyatira Church, which is
said to have been the only congregation in the State contributing to the
founding of the University.
He was a member of the committee of trustees that selected the loca-
tion for the University, and a member of another committee of trustees
which was appointed to study the colleges and universities of America with
a view to culling the best from them for our University. Even more signifi-
cant is the fact that he wrote the by-laws of the University and mapped out
its curriculum, all of which were adopted by the trustees after some slight
Dr. Battle, in his History, says: "It is certainly to the honor of Dr.
McCorkle that, while he established over a hundred years ago, in the wilds
of North Carolina, a Normal School, the first probably in America, he like-
wise drew up a scheme for the more practical instruction which all higher
institutions of learning, at the present day, have to a greater or less extent
When the cornerstone was laid for the first building of the University,
Old East, on October 12, 1793, Dr. McCorkle was the orator of the occasion.
In concluding his address, he said: "May this hill be for religion as the
ancient hill of Zion; and for literature and the Muses, may it surpass the
ancient Parnassus." Dr. Battle's comment on the address begins with this
sentence: "We thank thee for thy Golden words, venerable father of
education in our State."
Many thought that Dr. McCorkle would be elected the first president
of the University, but this was opposed by General, afterwards Governor,
William R. Davie, one of the leaders in the founding of the University.
He leaned much toward French deism and skepticism, and did not want a
minister as president. So no president was elected at the time. Later Dr.
16 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
McCorkle was elected Professor of Moral and Political Philosophy and
History, and it was expected that he would be the presiding professor, or
chairman, of the faculty but he declined, choosing to remain with Thyatira
and his beloved Zion-Parnassus.
I have thus dwelt at some length upon the life and labors of Dr.
McCorkle in order that you might know something of the minister who
laid the spiritual and intellectual foundations of this church; and that you
might get at least a glimpse of the notable man whom this church nurtured
in his boyhood days and had for its pastor for more than thirty years. His
life and labors should be an inspiration to generations to come. Dr. Foote
tells us that Dr. McCorkle, in his latter years, wrote a memoir of his life,
but that the manuscript was lost in transmission from relatives in Tennessee
to North Carolina — a tragic loss.
No account of the formative years would be complete without a few
paragraphs concerning John Barr, the most influential elder during that
era. He had much to do with the molding of the ideals and traditions of
the Church. At the same time he set a standard for the eldership for all
time to come. In 1814, at the age of sixty-five, he wrote a little book en-
titled, "The Early Religious Experiences of John Barr." I own a copy of
that precious little volume. As the title indicates, the book is devoted
largely to his inner religious experiences. It is the kind of book that makes
one despair of ever being able to attain to such heights and depths in the
spiritual life. The book also contains a sketch of the life of John Barr by his
John Barr was born in Pennsylvania in the fall of 1749. His father
was William Barr. They lived in York County, which adjoins Lancaster
County, from which Dr. McCorkle and many others came to North Caro-
lina. In 1765 the Barrs moved to Rowan County and located on a farm
about fifteen miles west of Salisbury, and a mile or two from the present
site of Back Creek Church. William Barr, the father, died October 30, 1766,
aged 57, and was buried in Thyatira Cemetery. John Barr married Mary
King and they settled on or near his old home place. They had ten children.
John Barr had very little formal education, but he had a bright mind
and a good memory. In due time he built up a splendid library consisting
mainly of books on history and theology. Not only so, he seems to have
mastered the contents of all his books, and thus educated himself. In co-
operation with his pastor, Dr. McCorkle, he helped to build up a good
library for the church. The remnants of the Thyatira library were still in
The Formative Years 17
existence when I was a lad. I remember especially some volumes on the
Scottish Covenanters and a large volume of sermons by Dr. Archibald Alex-
ander, for family use. Those samples will give you some idea of the char-
acter of the library.
He records an incident in his little book which throws some light on
a custom connected with the Communion Service in the early history of
Thyatira. It occurred in the year 1773, when he was about twenty-three.
He writes: "In the evening, Mr. Harris (the minister) called the young
people together to receive their tokens. I took one with little expectation of
using it. Mr. Harris, as he handed the tokens round, spoke a few words
that affected me more than all the sermons I had heard for half a year. The
words were these: 'I give you these tokens, not knowing your hearts. May
the Lord give you a token for good at His table tomorrow'."
Maybe you are wondering what is meant by the "tokens" referred to
in the above paragraph. It was the custom in those early days to guard care-
fully the Lord's table to see that no unworthy person received the Sacra-
ment of the Lord's Supper. A token was a little metal disk, not quite as
large as a nickel. A day or more before the Communion Service, all those
who were believed to be worthy were supplied with tokens which had to
be presented on the Sabbath before they could be admitted to the Lord's
table. They served as cards of admission. That custom was practically uni-
versal in those days among the Presbyterian churches of America, Ireland
John Barr was made a ruling elder early in life and filled that office
with devotion for many years. His grandson tells us that among the many
other things he did, he taught a class of Negro slaves in the Sunday School.
He read through the New Testament every year and through the Old
Testament every three years for thirty-nine years. His knowledge of the
Bible was phenomenal. Following the Scotch Presbyterian custom, he had
family prayers morning and evening.
In order that we may see how times and Christian ideals have changed,
I quote here a paragraph concerning John Barr, from the pen of his grand-
son: "Strange as it may seem, the temperance reformation found him not
only the owner of a fruit distillery, but engaged himself in the manufacture
of the most abundant of all causes of misery and crime. How his attention
was first turned to a consideration of the evil he was promoting, it would be
tedious fully to relate, as also what led to not only a change in his views, but
to the abandoning of the manufacture. Suffice it to say, though he had
recently erected a spacious distillery and at much cost had newly fitted up
18 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
the apparatus of death, he at once arrested the progress of the work and with
his name to the pledge, he lent all his counsel, his influence and his example
to the furtherance of that cause."
When Back Creek was organized in 1805, John Barr moved his mem-
bership from Thyatira and he became an elder in that church. He died
November 10, 1831, and was buried beside his wife in Thyatira Cemetery.
Other Elders in the Early Days
Of course there were other good elders during those early years, but
we know very little about them. There are no church records for the first
seventy-five or eighty years. If any were kept, they have been lost or destroy-
ed. Dr. S. C. Alexander, in his history, gives the names of quite a number of
those early elders, eulogizes them in general terms but gives very few facts
about their lives and labors. We do not know when they were elected or
how long they served. I will give the names as he gives them and such facts
as I have been able to find.
Alexander McCorkle, the father of Dr. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle,
was an elder. Dr. Foote, who published his Sketches of North Carolina in
1846, writes thus of Dr. McCorkle's parents: "His parents were pious peo-
ple, and constant attendants at Cathey's Meeting House, and Thyatira, when
there was preaching. After their son became the minister, a gentleman,
now living in Salisbury, says he often saw the old gentleman, who was a
ruling elder in the church, sitting on the pulpit stairs, on account of his
deafness, that he might get as near as possible to his son while preaching."
He is buried in Thyatira Cemetery and the gravestone says that he died
on December 24, 1800, at the age of 78. His wife, Agnes McCorkle, is
buried beside him. The gravestone says that she died on September 5, 1789,
at the age of 63.
William Cathey was also an elder, but we have no data about him. He
was probably buried in the Thyatira Cemetery, but if so, his grave is not
John McNeely was another elder. He was born in 1724 and died in
1801. He was probably buried in the cemetery, but there is no marker
to his grave.
James Graham was one of the first elders. Dr. Alexander says that
he was born in Scotland in 1695 and died in 1782. In the cemetery there is
a marker to the memory of a James Graham who died in 1782, but he was
only 36 years of age. There is a marker in memory of another James Gra-
ham, who died in 1758 at the age of 88. That was just five years after the
church deed was made. He may have been one of the very first elders.
The Formative Years 19
John Dobbin was also one of the first elders, but we have no facts about
him. If he is buried in the cemetery, there is no marker to his grave.
Samuel Barkley was one of the early elders, but we have no data about
him. If he is buried in the cemetery, there is no marker to his grave.
William Bowman was still another early elder. His gravestone states
that he died on March 11, 1795, at the age of 67. Dr. Alexander says that
he was killed while coming home from Salisbury in his wagon. Two of
his sons entered the ministry.
Thomas King was an elder in Thyatira, but went to Back Creek when
that church was organized in 1805, and became an elder there. He died on
October 16, 1812, at the age of 62, and was buried in the Thyatira Cemetery.
Thomas Gillespie was another Thyatira elder who moved his mem-
bership to Back Creek in 1805 and became an elder there. Dr. Alexander
says that he moved from there to Tennessee and was buried somewhere in
Abraham Lowrance was another elder who moved to Back Creek in
1805 and became an elder there. Later he moved to Statesville.
William Bell was still another elder who moved his membership to
Back Creek in 1805 and became an elder in that church.
Thomas Cowan was an elder who stuck by Thyatira when the colony
went off to found Back Creek in 1805. The records tell us that he appeared
before Concord Presbytery to protest against the movement to found Back
Creek. His gravestone says that he died in 1817, at the age of 70. When
Dr. Alexander made the centennial address in 1855, some five years before
the present church building was erected, he said of Thomas Cowan: "This
venerable house, now moldering with age, bears witness to his zeal and
energy; for he was one of the leading spirits that assisted in its erection."
That statement throws some light on the church building that preceded the
Joseph Kerr was born in 1762 and died on March 24, 1829. When he
was elected an elder and how long he served we do not know.
James Stewart was an elder about whom we have no data, except that
his son, William, became a Presbyterian minister.
James McCulloch is another elder concerning whom we have no in-
formation except that he died in 1812.
William Cowan was a half brother of Thomas Cowan. He died De-
cember 29, 1839, aged seventy.
John Reed, another elder, moved to Tennessee after the death of Dr.
20 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
Richard Gillespie, an elder, died December 8, 1830, aged sixty-three.
William Gibson, an elder, married Priscilla Brandon, and their son,
James Brandon Gibson, was an elder in Thyatira for many years.
Francis Gibson, an elder, married Elizabeth Brandon. When he was
elected or how long he served is not known.
In his centennial address in 1855, Dr. Alexander gives the names of
the following elders, without giving any information about them: William
Chambers, James Gillespie, William Miller and Henry Winder. He also
tells us that these and all the above elders had gone to their reward before
the centennial, some of them long before.
James Silliman was the father of John P. Silliman and the grandfather
of Hugh Silliman, both of whom became elders in after years. These three
Sillimans were elders in Thyatira for a total of more than a hundred years.
We have very little data about James Silliman. He took an active part in
the organization of the Congregational Bible Society at Thyatira in 1827,
and was probably an elder at that time. He died September 18, 1848, aged
James Caruthers, was the only one of these early elders living at the
time of the centennial. Dr. Alexander tells us that he was nearly ninety at
that time. The United States census of 1850 lists James Caruthers, aged
84; and his wife, Elizabeth Caruthers, aged 77. It is my impression that they
were the parents of Dr. Eli W. Caruthers, the noted Presbyterian minister,
who was born October 26, 1793. The first mention made of James Caru-
thers is in connection with the re-survey which was made on June 3, 1809,
of the land on which Thyatira stands. His name is signed to that document.
He also took an active part in the organization of the Congregational Bible
Society in 1827. He must have been a very active and efficient elder.
All these helped to lay the spiritual foundations of Thyatira Church
during the formative years. Of them might be what was said of King
David: "After they had served their generation by the will of God, they fell
on sleep and were laid unto their fathers."
The cemetery is the place where we bury our beloved dead. It is also
a place that enshrines much history and many precious memories. As we
have already seen, the land on which the church and cemetery are located
was purchased on January 17, 1753. The cemetery at first was evidently a
rather small area at the northern end of the present cemetery, which has
been enlarged from time to time. In fact, it has been much enlarged within
The Formative Years 21
In 1940 a copy was made of all names and dates and inscriptions on
the tombstones and monuments in the cemetery. These were typed on long
sheets of paper. There were at that time 530 names. It is evident that there
are many unmarked graves, especially in the old part of the cemetery. Some
of those that were originally marked have been so worn down by time that
the names and dates are no longer legible.
Let us look at the five oldest graves that are marked. They are as
follows: John Nisbet, died November 19, 1755, aged 50; John Brandon,
died May 15, 1756, aged 65; William Brandon, died in 1756, aged 30;
James Graham, died February 1, 1758, aged 88; John Knox, died October
25, 1758, aged 50. Note that all these died within five years after the land
for the cemetery was purchased. It is probable that there are some unmark-
ed graves older than these.
In order to get a cross section of the names of the early settlers, I tabu-
lated the names of all those who died prior to 1800. There are eighty-one in
all. Of these the name Brandon occurs eight times, Graham seven times,
Gillespie five times, Locke five times, Barr five times, McCorkle four times,
Hart four times, Kerr three times, Lowrance three times. Other well-known
names occurring less frequently are: Armstrong, Cathey, Gibson, King,
Knox, Luckie, Miller, Morrison, McNeely, Steele, Thompson, Troy and
All these are good Scotch-Irish or Scotch names, except Brandon which
is of English origin. No doubt there are other family names represented in
the unmarked graves of those who died prior to 1800. Not only so but
there were other settlers who were buried elsewhere or moved to other
communities. But the above names give us some idea of the people who
laid the foundations of the Thyatira community.
I also found it interesting to note the names that occur ten times or
more in the entire cemetery. They are as follows: Graham 29 times, Cowan
29, Gillespie 23, Locke 22, Sloan 18, Brandon 16, McCorkle 16, Miller 14,
Carrigan 13, Hall 12, Hyde 11, and Silliman 11. It will be observed that
all these are Scotch-Irish or Scotch names, except Brandon. As noted prev-
iously, Thyatira now has a considerable number of substantial members of
German descent, but they were not among the early settlers.
Let us look at some of the individual markers and monuments in the
old part of the cemetery. I have already spoken of the graves of Dr. Mc-
Corkle, of his parents and of John Barr.
On the western side of the cemetery, an attractive memorial stone
marks the graves of John Knox and his wife, Jean Gracy Knox, natives of
22 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
Scotland, who were among the earliest settlers in the Thyatira community.
He died in 1758 and she died in 1772. The memorial stone tells us that
seven of their sons were soldiers in the American Revolution and that
they were the great-grandparents of James Knox Polk, President of the
Next we come to the grave of Thomas and Naomi Gillespie, who are
also ancestors of President James Knox Polk. Their daughter Lydia mar-
ried Captain James Knox, son of John and Jean Gracy Knox, and was the
grandmother of President Polk. Mr. William D. Kizziah, of Salisbury, has
furnished me the following newspaper item which he discovered in the
files of the North Carolina Historical Commission in Raleigh. It was pub-
lished in the North Carolina Journal January 9, 1797, and reads as follows:
"Died at 2 p.m. on Tuesday the 15th. of December, 1796, Mrs.
Naomi Gillespie, aged 69; at 10 o'clock the same evening, Mr.
Thomas Gillespie, aged 76. They were the first settlers in Rowan
County on the west side of the Yadkin River, and lived in the
strictest bond of matrimonial friendship for the space of 5 1 years.
Their descendents amount to 63, of whom six sons carried them to
their place of interment, where they were deposited in the same
coffin. The history of North Carolina has perhaps never furnished
a similar instance since its first settlement."
Let us also pause at the grave of Captain William Armstrong who
was mortally wounded at the battle of Ramseur's Mill in the Revolutionary
War, and died the next day, June 21, 1780, aged 41.
Nearby is the grave of another Revolutionary soldier, Captain Thomas
Cowan, who was born January 23, 1748, and died December 4, 1817. He
was in the battles of King's Mountain, Cowpens, and Ramseur's Mill. As
noted in another place, he was an elder in Thyatira Church. He was also
the great grandfather of Mr. B. Scott Krider, who is an elder at this time
(1948); and built and lived in the brick residence near Bear Poplar in
which Mr. Krider now lives.
An interesting grave is that of Henry Barkley, Jr., who died February
5, 1776, aged 17. His father, Henry Barkley, Sr., who was probably buried
in Thyatira Cemetery, in an unmarked grave, was the ancestor of Senator
Alben Barkley of Kentucky, who was the majority leader of the United
States Senate during the long administration of President Franklin D.
Roosevelt, and who was elected vice-president of the United States in 1948.
On the east side of the Cemetery are the graves of the Lockes and the
Brandons, who were prominent in the political and social life of the county
and state. Most of these families lived five or six miles southeast of Thyatira
View of the Pulpit Until 1938 New Pulpit Built In 1942
First Organ in the Church
Old Communion Set Including the Case Rear Interior Showing the Gallery
The Formative Years 23
on large plantations. There was much intermarrying between the Lockes
The grave of the Honorable Matthew Locke is marked by a modest
granite stone, which says that he died on September 7, 1801, aged 71. He
was one of the largest slaveholders in Rowan County and was a noted poli-
tician. For many years he represented Rowan in the State House of Repre-
sentatives and Senate. He was a member of the Provincial Congress on
three separate occasions, and a member of the United States Congress from
1793 to 1799, where he was an ardent Jeffersonian. His wife, who was
Mary Brandon, is buried beside him, and the stone that marks her grave
bears a very beautiful epitaph. Locke township in Rowan County was
named in honor of Matthew Locke.
Col. Francis Locke, the brother of Matthew Locke, was Rowan's most
distinguished soldier in the American Revolution. During the years of the
Revolution he was closely associated with General William Lee Davidson
for whom Davidson College was named. He married Anna Brandon, the
sister of Mrs. Matthew Locke. The bodies of Col. and Mrs. Francis Locke
rest in unmarked graves in the Locke section of the cemetery. Their son,
Judge Francis Locke, left in his will an adequate sum of money to erect a
monument to their memories, but for some reason, the executors never
The most prominent monument in the Locke section marks the grave
of Judge Francis Locke. He was born October 31, 1766 and died January
30, 1823. From 1803 to 1813, he was judge of the Superior Court. He was
then elected to the United States Senate. For some reason he resigned as
senator before he ever took his seat.
Matthew Brandon who died in 1819, at the age of 68, represented
Rowan County in the State Legislature for four terms.
Col. Alexander Brandon, who died in 1854, at the age of 63, also rep-
resented Rowan in the State Legislature. In his will he left four hundred
dollars to the elders of the church to be used in keeping the cemetery in
repair. He also left Davidson College $3,000.00, to be used in educating
candidates for the ministry.
Tradition says that Betsy (Elizabeth) Brandon is buried in an un-
marked grave in Thyatira Cemetery, but I have not been able to discover
any positive proof.* Her mother was Margaret Locke, the sister of the Hon.
* After this manuscript had gone to the printer I learned on good authority that
Col. Francis McCorkle and his wife (Betsy Brandon) are buried in the old McCorkle
burying ground in Lincoln County near the village of Denver.
24 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
Matthew Locke. I refer to Betsy Brandon here because there is a beautiful
story about her that used to be printed in the school readers. It runs thus
with variations: In the spring of 1791 General George Washington, then
President of the United States, made a grand tour through the south. On his
return trip, be came by the way of Columbia, Charlotte and Salisbury. He
usually rode in his carriage but sometimes for variety he rode horesback.
When he was in about six miles of Salisbury, he dismounted and went up
to a substantial looking home and asked an attractive girl of fourteen
if he could get a cup of coffee and some light refreshments. He knew
that the day in Salisbury would be very crowded. The girl was Betsy
Brandon. She replied that she was the only one at home as all the rest of
the family had gone to Salisbury to see General Washington. To her great
disappointment they had left her at home to keep an eye on the servants.
He told her that he would make a bargain with her. If she would get him
a cup of coffee, he would arrange for her to see General Washington before
any of the other members of the family saw him. When the cup of coffee
had been made and drunk, he arose and said: "I am General Washington."
In after years, she married Col. Francis McCorkle and became the mother of
several children who become prominent in the affairs of the county and
the State. No wonder that her descendants loved to tell the story of Betsy
Brandon and General Washington. I like to believe that she is buried in
Speaking of the Brandons, the Rev. Don R. Brandon, the gifted young
pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Welch, West Virginia, is a descendant
of the Thyatira Brandons.
One of the most conspicuous monuments in the cemetery marks the
grave of Dr. F. N. Lucky, who was a prominent physician and citizen of
the Thyatira community. He was born August 12, 1823 and died August
8, 1878. His home was several miles south or southwest of the church.
During the Civil War he rendered a noble service as a surgeon in the Con-
federate Army. As a citizen, he represented Rowan in the State Legislature.
The first time I ever saw a hearse at Thyatira or anywhere else was at
Dr. Lucky 's funeral. I then lacked less than two months of being ten. It
was the only time I ever saw a hearse at Thyatira as long as I lived in that
community. Back in those days, the casket was brought to the church in a
two-horse wagon, or maybe a spring wagon, and was carried from the
church to the cemetery by the pallbearers.
FROM THE DIVISION TO THE CENTENNIAL
In the latter part of Dr. McCorkle's pastorate, there occurred a
distressing split in the Thyatira congregation, which resulted in the
organization of Back Creek Church in 1805, and it was all brought about
by a great revival of religion. In order to understand the situation, it is
necessary to take a glance at the revival. The facts are found in Foote's
Sketches of North Carolina, and "Revivals in America" by Dr. W. W.
The leader in the revival was the Rev. James McGready, who was
brought up under the ministry of Dr. David Caldwell in the old Buffalo
Church near Greensboro. Shortly after McGready was ordained to the min-
istry, he visited Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where a revival had
been going on among the students for a number of years. His heart was
strangely warmed by what he saw and heard. Upon his return to North
Carolina, he began to preach fervent, evangelistic sermons with great
power. As a result, there were unusual revivals in Guilford, Alamance and
surrounding counties. So far as I can learn, there was nothing objectionable
about these revivals.
In 1796 McGready went to Kentucky. Under his preaching and that
of his co-workers, there occurred the most remarkable revival meetings
in the history of America. Thousands attended the meetings. People camp-
ed in tents and wagons and hastily constructed shacks. Under the power of
the Gospel, people were "struck down" to the ground under deep con-
viction. Some lay there in a swoon; others cried for mercy; still others
shouted and danced and even barked like dogs. Some were taken with a
bodily exercise known as "jerks." An eye-witness estimated that as many
as 3,000 were struck down in one protracted camp meeting.
Some of the Presbyterian ministers of North Carolina, when they
heard of these wonderful things, went to Kentucky to see them with their
26 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
own eyes. They were deeply impressed by what they saw. Upon their
return to North Carolina, they began to held meetings like those they saw
in Kentucky, with much the same results. Hundreds of people were "struck
down" in these meetings. Some lay in a swoon for hours; others cried out
for mercy; still others were affected by a bodily exercise known as the
Dr. McCorkle and others found it difficult to warm up to these meet-
ings with their bodily exercises and confusion, and yet they tried to study
them with open minds. With this in view, in January, 1802, Dr. McCorkle,
Dr. James Hall, pastor of Bethany in Iredell, and Dr. Joseph D. Kilpatrick,
pastor of Third Creek Church, went to a great revival camp meeting in
Randolph County, taking with them about a hundred of their members,
mostly young people. In that meeting, hundreds of people were "struck
down" under deep conviction, among them a considerable number of the
people who had come with the ministers from Rowan and Iredell, including
Dr. McCorkle 's own son.
Dr. Foote says that Drs. McCorkle, Hall and Kilpatrick "returned to
their charges, satisfied that the excitement was a revival of true religion,
and these bodily exercises were connected in a manner inexplicable and not
to be questioned." Drs. Hall and Kilpatrick were more enthusiastic about
what they saw than Dr. McCorkle was, and began to have similar meetings
in their communities. Dr. McCorkle recognized that there were many true
conversions in these meetings, but he could not approve of the confusion
and the "bodily exercises," and he spoke against them. His congregation
was divided on the subject, into "revivalists" and "anti-revivalists." Dr.
McCorkle was classified as an "anti-revivalist." It was the "Old Side" and
the "New Side" controversy all over again.
Back Creek Organized
The controversy resulted in the withdrawal from Thyatira of the
"revivalists," consisting of twenty or thirty families and five elders. It is
said that for quite a while this group worshipped in a barn about a mile
from the present site of Back Creek Church, and then they petitioned the
Presbytery to be organized into a church. This petition was granted by
Concord Presbytery on September 6, 1805, but not without some censure.
In the minutes of the Presbytery, we find this statement: "Moreover, Pres-
bytery being informed that the same habits &c. on the part of the petition-
ers upon account of which they became originally obnoxious to the con-
gregation of Thyatira do still exist, and that therefore it seems impossible
that they can worship together in peace and harmony; Therefore, although
From The Division To The Centennial 27
Presbytery views the conduct of the petitioners as disorderly in continuing
so long a separate people worshipping in a public capacity without apply-
ing to Presbytery to be recognized in that condition, and also views as dis-
orderly such as have been in the habit of ministering to them in that state;
Resolved that although we deeply regret the necessity of such a measure,
the prayer of the petition is hereby granted, upon the condition that the
petitioners do not build their house of worship nearer than about five
Dr. James Hall, pastor of Bethany, who seems to have been a peace-
maker, came down from Iredell with his famous sulky, on which he had a
kind of speedometer, and measured off five miles. The Back Creek people
promptly built a little log church. In 1811 they built a larger one in which
they continued to worship until 1857, when they erected the present sub-
stantial brick building. Time has a wonderful way of healing wounds. In
less than fifty years, Thyatira and Back Creek had the same pastor, and
from that day to this they have lived on the most friendly terms, as Christ-
Recovering From the Division
The division was a severe blow to Thyatira, from which it took years
to recover. To begin with, it must have broken Dr. McCorkle's heart. He
was never the same again. His health began to fail and in 1806 or 1807, at
the age of sixty, he had a stroke while preaching and was never able to
preach again. His condition can be imagined from the following action
taken by Concord Presbytery on October 5, 1807: "Whereas the reverend
father and friend, Dr. Samuel E. McCorkle, is in a weak and frail state, and
we think it a duty incumbent on the congregation to which he has minist-
ered for many years, to consider his temporal circumstances and conscient-
iously contribute to his convenience as his necessity and their ability allow;
It is therefore ordered that Reverend James McRee write a friendly letter
to the congregations of Thyatira and Back Creek reminding them of their
duty in this respect." Dr. McCorkle remained an invalid until his death
on January 21, 1811.
Perhaps the severest part of the blow to Thyatira was to have ap-
proximately thirty families and five elders, practically all the elders there
were, withdraw from its membership at one time. The elders who with-
drew were: John Barr, William Bell, Thomas Gillespie, Thomas King and
Abraham Lowrance. The withdrawal took away quite a number of the
leaders. It also greatly reduced the attendance upon the services of the
28 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
church, and crippled the church financially, and thus reduced its ability to
support a pastor. There was also a bitterness about the controversy which
affected the spirituality of the church.
But those who remained girded up their minds and decided to carry
on. The first thing they had to do was elect some elders. Whom they elect-
ed we do not know, but they were no doubt some of those whose names
have already been mentioned in the earlier part of this history.
An even more difficult problem faced the congregation when Dr.
McCorkle's health gave way. They had to find a new pastor. It was some-
thing like ten years before a permanent pastor was secured. In the mean-
time the church had a number of stated supplies. Dr. Alexander says that
the Rev. John Brown, D.D., gave half of his time to Thyatira and the other
half to Salisbury from 1807 to 1809. Dr. Rumple says that the Rev. Mr.
Bowman, son-in-law of Dr. McCorkle, supplied the pulpit for some time.
What other supplies the church had at this time we do not know.
The Rev. John Carrigan seems to have been the first permanent min-
ister of Thyatira after the death of Dr. McCorkle. The minutes of Presby-
tery and the General Assembly give the following data about him. He
was licensed by Orange Presbytery in 1794, and was one of the original
members of Concord Presbytery when it was set off from Orange in 1795.
From 1797 to 1807 he was pastor of Bethpage, and for a part of that time
pastor of Ramah. In a letter written by Dr. McCorkle in 1802 he refers to
Mr. Carrigan as "my friend and neighbor."
On April 10, 1807 Concord Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relation-
ship between him and Bethpage. After that he was reported in the minutes
as being without a charge for a number of years. He was so reported as late
as 1814. His name first appears as pastor of Thyatira and Bethpage in the
Assembly's Minutes for 1819- This indicates that he became pastor of Thya-
tira sometime between 1814 and 1819. As there are no records of Thyatira
for that period we have no data concerning his ministry here, but all indica-
tions are that he had a fruitful pastorate. The minutes of Concord Presby-
tery for 1822 contain this paragraph: "Our dear brother, Rev. John Carri-
gan, departed this life on the 31st of March 1822, having ceased from his
labors and gone to receive his reward and enjoy his rest."
The Rev. James Stafford was ordained and installed as pastor of Thya-
tira on November 15, 1823, and continued as pastor until April 8, 1831. He
was evidently still a young man as he had not been ordained before. We
do not know much about him but there are several items that tell us some-
thing of the character of the man and the nature of his ministry.
From The Division To The Centennial 29
The Historical Society at Montreat has furnished us with an article
which appeared in "The Visitor and Telegraph" on October 13, 1827, that
tells of the organization of a Bible Society at Thyatira under the leadership
of Mr. Stafford. The article reads thus:
"On the 22 inst., which was Saturday preceding the administration of
the Lord's Supper at Thyatira, the greater part of the congregation being
present, it was proposed by the Rev. James Stafford that a Congregational
Bible Society be formed, as a branch of the Salisbury Bible Society.
"Rev. James Stafford was called to the chair, and a constitution was
adopted, and subscribed by twenty persons. The following regular officers
were chosen: Rev. James Stafford, President; Alex Lowrance and James
Silliman, Vice-Presidents; and Francis Gibson, Treasurer. Managers: Jesse
McNeely, George Gillespie, Jacob Skiles, John McCulloch, James Caruthers
and Julian J. Reeves.
"Five members have been added, making in all twenty-five. It is
clearly ascertained that there are families residing within the bounds of
this congregation that are destitute of the Bible, but it is hoped that they
will soon be blessed with the sacred volume, and that this fact will excite
other congregations to inquire if there be not such families residing within
their bounds, and to make due efforts to supply them." The article is signed
by Julius J. Reeves, Recording Secretary.
Another thing that we know about the Rev. James Stafford is the fact
that he decided to leave North Carolina and the South when the legis-
lature of North Carolina passed a law forbidding anyone to teach Negro
slaves how to read. At that time and up to the close of the Civil War,
Thyatira Church had a considerable number of slaves who were full mem-
bers of the church. Mr. Stafford was evidently deeply interested in teaching
these slaves to read the Word of God. We judge that he was a man of deep
convictions, or else he would not have resigned his pastorate and left the
south for conscience sake. The minutes of the Presbytery show that on
April 8, 1831, he was dismissed to the Presbytery of Cincinnati.
A record was kept of the children who were baptized during the pas-
torate of Mr. Stafford, fifty-two children in all. That is the earliest record of
any kind that has been preserved in connection with the history of Thya-
tira. On that list is the name of James Franklin Carrigan, who was baptized
on February 14, 1830, and who in after years was my Sunday School teacher.
Of the fifty-two children on the list, he is the only one I ever knew personal-
30 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
For the next six years, Thyatira was served by stated supplies. The
Rev. Thomas Espy, an unusually devout and able young minister, supplied
Thyatira from Salisbury during the spring and summer of 1831. He too
was a man of deep convictions. Before coming to Salisbury and Thyatira,
he had been at Centre. There he had quite a controversy concerning the
question as to what infants have a right to be baptized. The Presbyterian
Confession says that only children of believers should be baptized. At least
one parent must be a member of some evangelical church. But some min-
isters administered baptism to children whether the parents were members
of the Church or not, provided they had been baptized. A great controversy
had raged over this same question for years in New England. The practice
of baptizing children whose parents had been baptized, but were not mem-
bers of a church, was dubbed the "Half-way Covenant."
Mr. Espy stood by his convictions and refused to baptize a child unless
at least one parent was a member of the Church. The controversy resulted
in his leaving the Centre community and coming to Salisbury and Thyatira.
By his ability, his spirituality, his deep convictions and his intense earnest-
ness, it looked as if he were going to have a rich ministry, but in the fall
of 1831 he was stricken with tuberculosis and died on April 16, 1833, and
was buried in Salisbury. It is interesting to note that his daughter Harriet
became the first wife of Honorable Zebulon B. Vance, the distinguished
Governor of North Carolina and United States Senator.
The Rev. James Elijah Morrison was the next supply of whom we have
any record. He graduated from Union Theological Seminary in 1831 and
was licensed to preach in April, 1832. He evidently came to Thyatira as
a licentiate as he was not ordained until September, 1834, and then he was
ordained as an evangelist and not as a pastor. He left Thyatira by 1836,
for we find that he was supplying Bethpage and Concord in 1836-37, and
that he was called to those two churches in 1838 and remained their pastor
until 1852. He lived to a ripe old age and died at Morven, North Carolina,
February 18, 1892.
The Rev. Patrick Sparrow was pastor in Salisbury 1834-36, and sup-
plied Thyatira for all or part of that time. In 1836-37 he helped to raise
funds to found Davidson College, and was then elected professor, the first
man ever elected a professor in Davidson College. Dr. Robert Hall Mor-
rison had previously been elected president. After serving as professor in
Davidson for two or three years, Mr. Sparrow went to Prince Edward
County, Virginia, and in 1845 was elected President of Hampden-Sydney
From The Division To The Centennial 31
The minutes of the General Assembly for 1837 state that the Rev.
Daniel Lindley was stated supply of Thyatira at that time. He was a noted
missionary to the Zulus in Africa for many years, and was probably at home
on furlough. In the minutes of the 1837 Assembly, Thyatira was reported
as having 200 members, and Back Creek as having 193. Those are the earl-
iest statistics that I have been able to discover.
The Rev. James D. Hall was the next permanent pastor. A note in
an old sessional record in 1840 says that he began his ministry at Thyatira
in May 1836. He was a native of Iredell County and closely related to the
noted Dr. James Hall, pastor of Bethany. He was a graduate of the Uni-
versity of North Carolina and Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.
Dr. Rumple in his semi-Centennial address at Davidson College, tells
us that Mr. Hall was a member of the building committee when Davidson
College was founded in 1836-37. He also tells us that people of neighbor-
ing churches took their wagons, teams and servants, camped on the newly
purchased grounds for the College and spent several weeks in clearing off
the grounds, building fences and in making and hauling brick. Inasmuch
as their pastor was a member of the building committee, I have no doubt
that the people of Thyatira had a part in this work. Mr. Hall was a trustee
of Davidson College from 1845 to 1870. Dr. Rumple tells us that at the
semi-Centennial celebration of the College, in 1887, Mr. Hall sat on the
platform, a venerable patriarch of eighty-one with a full white beard. He
was the only one of the founding fathers present at the semi-Centennial.
But he was only thirty when he became pastor of Thyatira. Previous
to his coming, he had been an evangelist in Orange Presbytery for two
years and had married Miss Elizabeth Scott of Rockingham County. They
had an infant son, named William Thomas Hall, who was about six months
old when Mr. Hall came to Thyatira, and nearly eleven years old when he
left. This son became a distinguished preacher, a professor in Columbia
Theological Seminary, and Moderator of the General Assembly of our
Church. He was a Thyatira boy who made good. Mr. Hall's first wife died
early and he married Miss Elvira Brandon of the Thyatira congregation.
His ministry at Thyatira seems to have been richly blessed. During
the first year of his pastorate, sixteen persons were added to the church on
profession, and the next year there were eighteen. In 1841 there were
twelve, in 1842 there were twelve and in 1845 there were seventeen. The
total membership of the church increased. It looked as if the church was
on its way to a complete recovery from the division which occurred forty
years before, and then, in September, 1846, Mr. Hall felt a call to home
32 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
mission work in Gaston County, where he spent the rest of his life and did
a wonderful work. Within a year after he moved to Gaston County, his
second wife, Elvira Brandon, died. In due time he married again and be-
came the father of eight children, some of whom attained to places of dis-
tinction. One of his sons, Dr. Joseph Kirkland Hall, has been a useful min-
ister in our Church for fifty-five years, and now ( 1948) resides in Belmont,
For eight years after Mr. Hall left, Thyatira had no regularly installed
pastor and the records indicate that the membership declined. From the
fall of 1846 to the spring of 1851 the Rev. Stephen Frontis served the
church as stated supply. During these years he gave part of his time to
other churches. He was a native of France, a graduate of Princeton The-
ological Seminary and a man of marked ability. He was evidently an ac-
ceptable preacher and pastor, as Thyatira and Back Creek united in a call
to him in April, 1851, to be their pastor. But he declined the call and went
to Centre as stated supply. It is to be noted that Thyatira and Back Creek
got together in this call after a separation of forty-five years.
From March, 1852 to June, 1853, the Rev. Robert Agnew, a licentiate,
who had never been ordained, served as stated supply for Thyatira and Back
Creek. The minutes of the General Assembly indicate that twenty-six
members were added on profession while he was stated supply. He went
from Thyatira to Winnsboro, South Carolina, as stated supply of that
We have now come to the close of the first hundred years. You will
recall that the land on which the church was built was purchased on Jan-
uary 17, 1753. During the hundred years, the church had many ups and
downs. This brief sketch of its history thus far gives us some idea of the
labor, struggles and prayers of our forefathers and mothers in laying the
foundations of this church upon which succeeding generations have been
CENTENNIAL, CIVIL WAR, RECONSTRUCTION
The Rev. Samuel Caldwell Alexander began his ministry at Thya-
tira on March 25, 1854, as stated supply. At that time he was only
twenty-four years of age and had not yet been ordained, but only licensed
to preach the Gospel. He was a native of Mecklenburg County and a
graduate of Davidson College and Columbia Theological Seminary. It did
not take the people long to decide that they wanted the young minister as
their permanent pastor. A call was issued to him by Thyatira and Back
Creek, and he was ordained and installed as pastor on Saturday, May 26,
1855. He was a young man of great energy and enthusiasm, and had evange-
His ministry was richly blessed. The minutes of the General Assembly
show that an unusual number of people united with the church on pro-
fession during his ministry. In 1855 there were twenty-six, the next year
thirty-eight, the next six and the next twenty-nine. Practically every time
the session met a number of members were received on profession and a
number by letter. There was a decided increase in the total membership of
the church. It looked as if a new era was about to dawn for the church.
During Dr. Alexander's pastorate, the Centennial of the church was
observed with appropriate ceremonies. To be sure, it was observed a hun-
dred and two years after the land on which the church stands was pur-
chased. On October 17, 1855, Dr. Alexander delivered a notable historical
address as a part of the Centennial exercises. By request of the session, the
address was published in pamphlet form and quite a number of copies of
that pamphlet are still in existence.
About that time a new book for keeping minutes of the session was
purchased. It is a stout leather-bound book, the kind that every session
should have. The first thing in the book is Dr. Alexander's historical ad-
dress, written in a clear, bold hand. He evidently wrote it himself. It is an
34 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
unusually eloquent address. He did not have before him all the historical
records that we have today, and there are a few historical slips as to dates,
but in the main it tallies with the records.
Following the historical address in the session book is this interesting
paragraph in the same hand that wrote the address: "The celebration con-
tinued for eight days, during which time the gospel was faithfully preached,
and the Lord saw fit to bless His Word in a most wonderful manner. Be-
tween forty and fifty persons expressed a willingness to give themselves up
to Jesus Christ, to be His followers, and gave pleasing evidence of a change
of heart. It was of a truth a pentecostal season. Every heart seemed to be
deeply impressed with a sense of divine things. The aged fathers and
mothers tell us that they have not seen such in fifty years — since the great
revival of 1802."
This historical address was re-published in 1925 with a historical sup-
plement by Dr. Thomas W. Lingle, a son of the church, thus bringing the
history of Thyatira up to that date.
Dr. Alexander delivered a similar historical address at Back Creek
on March 21, 1857, when the present church building at Back Creek was
dedicated. At the request of the congregation, that address was also pub-
lished and some of the original copies are still in existence. That address
was re-published in 1905 with a supplement by Mr. John K. Goodman,
bringing the history of Back Creek up to that date, which was its centennial
While the work of the two churches was going forward in this en-
couraging way, Dr. Alexander felt a call to another field, and, according to
the records of the Presbytery, the pastoral relationship between him and
Thyatira was dissolved on April 16, 1859- It would be interesting to trace
the life of this unusual man for the next forty-eight years until his death,
at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on September 9, 1907, but that would carry us too
far afield from the purpose of this history. Thyatira owes to him a great
debt of gratitude for the splendid work he did while pastor here.
The Rev. Barnabas Scott Krider succeeded Dr. Alexander as pastor
of Thyatira. The minutes of the session show that he began his work at
Thyatira in June, 1859, but the minutes of Concord Presbytery indicate
that he was not officially installed until June 9, I860. He was a native of
Rowan, a graduate of Davidson College and Columbia Theological Semi-
nary, and a post graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary. Before com-
ing to Thyatira at the age of thirty, he was pastor of Bethany and Tabor in
Iredell County. In the meantime he had married Miss Marie P. Cowan
Centennial, Civil War, Reconstruction 35
who made him a noble wife. She survived him nearly forty years. As a youth
I saw her frequently at church, and still remember her sweet, Christian face.
Mr. Krider's first meeting with the session was on June 4, 1859, and
the first persons to be received into the church that day was Mrs. Martha
Jane Lingle on certificate from the old Speedwell Presbyterian Church in
Rockingham County. That was my mother. The session met with regularity
during his pastorate and at practically every meeting one or more members
were received. His ministry was richly blessed, notwithstanding the fact
that the country was in the throes of the Civil War during the larger part
of the time he was pastor.
The church seems to have been in an almost constant state of revival.
The minutes of the session reveal the fact that 150 persons united with
Thyatira during his pastorate of a little more than six years. Of these,
twenty-six were received on profession on September 3, 1865. On October
7th, Mr. Krider met with the session and seven more members were receiv-
ed on profession. Two weeks later, on October 20, 1865, Mr. Krider passed
to his eternal reward. His son and namesake, Mr. B. Scott Krider, an elder
in Thyatira, still maintains the high ideals set by his sainted father and
Houses of Worship
Inasmuch as the present church building was completed in 1860, while
Mr. Krider was pastor, it may be well to pause and talk about the several
church buildings which Thyatira has had. There have been four buildings
in all. A note made in the session book in 1840 says: "We now worship in
the third house, two having passed away by the ravages of time." Little is
known of the first two buildings. They were no doubt log buildings, lo-
cated north of the present building and nearer the cemetery.
The Centennial in 1855 was held in the third building. We do not
know just when it was erected, but from a reference in Dr. Alexander's
historical address, we judge that it was an old building at that time. In
speaking of a former elder, Thomas Cowan, who was born in 1747 and
died in 1817, Dr. Alexander said: "This venerable house, now moldering
with age, bears witness to his Christian zeal and energy, for he was one of
the leading spirits that assisted in its erection."
The movement to erect the present church building began as early as
1856. There is an old record book which contains the names of seventy-
seven persons who made subscriptions to the building fund in that year,
with the amount subscribed by each one. The total amounted to $5,627.00.
36 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
The people were probably called upon to make additional contributions
later as that amount was not sufficient to build the church, which was not
completed until I860.
The following building committee was appointed: Dr. Samuel E.
Kerr, Major N. F. Hall and Mr. R. H. Cowan. Although Dr. Kerr did not
make a profession of his faith and unite with the church until June 15,
1861, he took the leading part in the erection of the present building. In
fact, it is not too much to say that he made it possible. He lived about a
mile west of Thyatira in the house that was afterwards called the McCubbins
place, and later the Beeker place. From his will, which is on record in Salis-
bury, he appears to have been a man of large wealth, owning much land
and many slaves in North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee. On this
original subscription list, his name is down for $2,500.00. In an article which
I wrote for the Davidson Monthly in the winter of 1890, when I was a
sophomore, I stated that Dr. Kerr gave $10,000.00 for the building and
left $5,000.00 to the church in his will. I cannot recall where I got those
figures but it must have been from some of the older members of the church
at that time. I have recently learned from the Register's office in Salisbury
that he did leave $5,000.00 to the church in his will, so my figures of 1890
are probably correct. Tradition also says that Dr. Kerr had his slaves assist
in the erection of the building. No doubt others gave just as generously
according to their means as Dr. Kerr did, but I have made special mention
of him because he was chairman of the building committee, took the lead
and made the church building possible.
On May 26, 1860, the session passed a resolution tendering the thanks
of the congregation to the building committee "for the fidelity with which
they have discharged the trust committed to them, and the anxiety they
have manifested to meet the wishes of the congregation." This resolution
was probably passed shortly after the completion of the building.
Twenty years later, in 1879, it was discovered that the walls of the
new church were spreading slightly. The foundations seemed to be weak-
ening. A contractor was employed to strengthen the foundations. He also
cemented the walls on the outside to the height of several feet, to protect
them from the weather, and heavy iron rods were used to bring the walls
back into place and keep them there. The cost was approximately eight
hundred dollars, which was a lot of money in those days.
The church originally had on it a graceful steeple which was said to be
110 feet high. We school boys used to test our skill in trying to see who
could throw a baseball over it. But in after years when the timbers began
Centennial, Civil War, Reconstruction 37
to decay, it was thoughts advisable for the safety of the building and of
the people to remove it. That was about the year 1892.
The Colored Members
In building the church, the plans included an ample gallery for slave
members of whom there were quite a number. In 1854 the names of
twenty-six were listed in the session book. From 1854 to 1865, sixty-five
additional ones were received into membership and all their names are
given. The last names of these ninety-one are revealing as to the extent of
slavery and the ownership of slaves in the Thyatira community.
Here are the names. The numerals indicate the number of slave mem-
bers who had that name: Kerr 25, Sloan 13, McConnaughey 13, Cowan 6,
Graham 4, Gillespie 4, Todd 3, Gibson 3, Henderson 3, Hyde 2, Smith 2,
Brown 2. The following names occur only once: Blackwell, Brandon,
Boyden, Dobbins, Hall, Litaker, McNeely, Menius, Shulenbarger, and Wil-
helm. Of course this table does not indicate the number of slaves any
given family owned, but only those who were members of Thyatira. The
table does indicate that there were only a few large slave owners in the
Thyatira community. At the same time, it indicates that slavery was rather
The slaves sat in the gallery on the west side of the church. But when
emancipation came with its new freedom, practically all of them ceased
to attend Thyatira. However, I still remember that a few of the oldtimers
sat in the colored gallery for years. I also remember how strongly I inwardly
objected to sitting in that gallery on crowded occasions. It is rather tragic
that those colored people were not gathered into a Presbyterian church of
their own after the war. As it was, they were scattered like sheep without
a shepherd. In after years the Northern Presbyterian Church established
Oakland Presbyterian Church for Negroes and gathered some of them in.
The Civil War and the period of reconstruction, which continued ten
or twelve years after the war, dealt a severe blow to Thyatira. Quite a num-
ber of the young men of the community were killed or wounded. Everybody
was impoverished. Out of a sense of patriotism, those who had means in-
vested largely in Confederate bonds which proved to be a total loss. For
example, in his will, which was made during the war, Dr. Samuel Kerr
willed to two of his nieces a total of fifty thousand dollars in Confederate
bonds. When his will was probated after his death, July 11, 1865, those
bonds were not worth the paper they were written upon. Large investments
38 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
in slaves were a total loss. The owners of large plantations which had been
worked by slave labor had nobody to work them. On top of all that came
ten years of carpet-bag rule and occupation of the south by Federal soldiers.
No wonder that the people of Thyatira found it difficult to secure a
pastor after the death of Mr. Krider, and even more difficult to support one.
For awhile the church was served by stated supplies. The Rev. W. A. Wood,
who was pastor of Third Creek, supplied the church for part time for sev-
eral months. He was one of the Lord's noblemen, and was afterwards pastor
of the First Church of Statesville for more than forty years.
Then the minutes of the session indicate that different ministers
preached from time to time and moderated meetings of the session.
On May 4, 1867, a call was extended to the Rev. George M. Gibbs.
He began his ministry at Thyatira in August, 1867, but the records indi-
cate that he was never installed as pastor. He moderated meetings of the
session in August, September and October, 1867, and then we hear no more
of him. After he left, the church was supplied by visiting ministers until
The Rev. Samuel Caldwell Pharr, D.D., came to Thyatira as stated sup-
ply in January, 1869, was called as pastor on April 17th and installed in
May, 1869. He was a native of Mecklenburg County and a graduate of
Davidson College and Union Theological Seminary. Before coming to
Thyatira, he had been pastor of Providence and Sharon Churches, and
after that of Hopewell, all in Mecklenburg, not far from Charlotte. When
he came to Thyatira, he was about forty-five years of age and had a wife
and four or five children. For part of the time he was at Thyatira, he and
his family lived in less than a half mile from my old home, and the Pharr
children and the older Lingle children were playmates. Incidentally, I may
say that in after years all those Pharr children became useful members of
the Presbyterian, or Associate Reformed Presbyterian, Church in or near
Dr. Pharr was a man of real ability and some of the older members
said that he was an unusually good preacher and pastor. He began his
ministry at Thyatira with enthusiasm. On one Sunday in August, 1869,
twenty-five members were received on profession and six by letter. After
that the church seems to have moved on in a normal way. One or two
members were received at practically every meeting of the session.
As he was pastor of both Thyatira and Franklin, his congregation
covered a great deal of territory. Visiting all his people in those horse and
buggy days, especially in the winter, was a very arduous task. It was said
J. Alston Ramsey
J. A. Gilmer
W. M. Walsh
J. C. Grier
E. D. Brown
J. E. Guthrie
H. S. Robinson
James R. Phipps
Centennial, Civil War, Reconstruction 39
that sometimes when he called at a home on a cold day, the lady of the
house would prepare a toddy for him. In due time it was rumored that
he liked his toddy too well. When the Presbytery heard these rumors, the
congregation was directed to take a vote as to whether they wished to retain
Dr. Pharr as pastor. Twenty-two voted to retain him and two voted in
the negative. Many must have refrained from voting. On May 28, 1873 the
Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relationship between Dr. Pharr and
Thyatira. At the same time the Presbytery appointed a committee to in-
vestigate the rumors.
On June 8, 1873, in a regularly called meeting, the congregation ex-
pressed their sincere regret at losing Dr. Pharr as pastor and said, "We as
a congregation bear testimony to his faithful performance of his duties as
pastor in going in and out before this people."
But the matter did not end there. On July 9, 1873, the Presbytery met
at Thyatira and the committee previously appointed made an elaborate
report, preferring charges against Dr. Pharr. Some of the charges seem
rather trivial to us now. On August 23, 1873 the Presbytery met again at
Thyatira and after a long trial Dr. Pharr was suspended from the Presby-
terian ministry. The next year he entered the ministry of the Methodist
It was unfortunate that these meetings of the Presbytery were held
at Thyatira, as the trial created a great deal of excitement and divided
the congregation into two distinct groups. The whole thing was a dis-
tressing experience for the church at a time when it was trying to recover
from the ravages of the Civil War, and gave the church a distinct backset.
Four years elapsed before the church secured another permanent pas-
tor. In the meantime there was no regular stated supply. Judging from the
names of the ministers who moderated the meetings of the session during
this period, I get the impression that pastors of nearby churches helped
Thyatira as much with preaching services and in other ways as they could.
Among these were the Rev. W. W. Pharr, pastor of Centre, the Rev. A. L.
Crawford, Evangelist with headquarters in Statesville, the Rev. E. A. Chand-
ler, stated supply at Back Creek and the Rev. T. P. Penick, pastor at
The Rev. Kiah P. Julian gave some valuable assistance during this
period. He was a native of Rowan who united with Thyatira on pro-
fession in 1868 when he was about thirteen years of age, but later took
his membership to the First Presbyterian Church of Salisbury. His boyhood
home was on the Salisbury road about five miles east of Thyatira. He
40 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
graduated from Davidson College in 1874, but did not enter Union The-
ological Seminary until the fall of 1875. It must have been during that
interim that he taught school at Thyatira. He frequently conducted ser-
vices on Sunday when no ordained minister was available. I remember it
was said that he was not allowed to enter the pulpit as he had not been
licensed, nor was he allowed to take a text or pronounce the benediction.
So he stood down in front of the pulpit and talked to the people out of the
Bible that was used in connection with the Sunday School. He graduated
from Union Seminary in 1878, became an effective preacher and was pastor
of churches in Lynchburg, Atlanta and Florida, but died at the early age
Notwithstanding all the help that was given, Thyatira had a very
difficult time during those four years without a pastor. Very few members
were received and the total membership decreased. Not only so but it was
a time of demoralization due to the war and reconstruction, and the session
spent much of its time in discipline. In some cases the discipline was for
gross immorality. But brighter days were ahead. In the summer of 1876,
the Rev. J. Alston Ramsay, who had been licensed to preach but had one
more year at seminary, was secured to supply the church during his summer
vacation. The people were so charmed with him that they decided to wait
for him until he graduated from seminary. So in March, 1877, the congre-
gation called him and on May 19, 1877, he was installed pastor. In the
meantime the Thyatira session approached the Back Creek session with the
suggestion that they get together again. In response, Back Creek also called
Mr. Ramsay. Thus began the happy relationship of the two churches hav-
ing the same pastor, which continued until June, 1946, when Thyatira
undertook the support of a pastor for his whole time. And thus began a new
era in the history of Thyatira. Before looking into this new era, let us
pause and get acquainted with the elders and deacons who guided the
church through the period that we have been discussing, a period that in-
cluded the troublous years of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Captain John McCulloch moved from this community to Statesville
at the beginning of this period, but he was evidently a very useful elder in
Thyatira for many years. His name appears as one of the organizers of the
Thyatira Bible Society in 1827. In 1831 he was elected clerk of the session
and continued as clerk for fifteen years. The last meeting of the session
that he attended was in April, 1853. Dr. S. C. Alexander, in his Centennial
Centennial, Civil War, Reconstruction 41
Address on October 17, 1855, says that Captain McCulloch was still living
Alexander Lowrance was born July 15, 1778 and died October 10,
1868. He was the patriarch of the session. The biographical sketch in the
minutes of the session says that he was a ruling elder in Thyatira for at
least fifty-five years, the longest term of service ever given by an elder to
Thyatira, so far as the records show. The minutes in the session book says:
"In the discharge of his duties he was mild and pleasant, but firm and de-
cided. He opposed everything that was wrong in doctrine or immoral or
inconsistent in practice . . . Both by precept and example he encouraged
the religious instruction of the young, and he lived to see the fruits of his
labors in the conversion of his family. His sons were elders in the Pres-
byterian Church, some in this state and others in Tennessee."
Thomas Todd was born September 6, 1793 and died July 23, 1869. He
was received into Thyatira by letter from Concord in April 27, 1845. He
was made clerk of the session sometime prior to May 10, 1850, as he signed
his name as clerk of the session on that date. However, the unsigned min-
utes for four or five years previous to that date appear in his handwriting,
which by the way was unusually good writing. He continued as clerk of
the session until 1863, and then having reached three-score and ten, he
probably asked to be relieved. For more than twenty years he served the
church well as a ruling elder.
James Brandon Gibson was elected an elder in 1844, and continued
to serve until his death in 1885, a period of forty-one years. He lived four
or five miles east of Thyatira and I recall that in my boyhood days we could
see him riding to church on horseback with great regularity. As a member
of the session, he always went to church well ahead of time. The minutes
indicate that he attended meetings of the session with marked punctuality.
He was sent even more frequently to see erring members. There was some-
thing about his manner and face that especially fitted him for that sort of
a mission. He was an elderly man when I was a boy and I did not know
him well, but I always felt strongly drawn toward him. So far as I can
discover, there is no marker to his grave in the Thyatira Cemetery. There
certainly should have been one.
John Knox Graham was born September 15, 1820 and died November
30, 1895. He attended his first meeting of the session February 19, 1855.
These dates indicate that he was an elder in Thyatira for approximately
forty years. The minutes show that he was clerk of the session from April
12, 1863 until his death, a period of more than thirty-two years. It is a
42 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
joy to read the minutes he recorded as they are in such a clear, beautiful
hand. Although he was over seventy-five when his last minutes were written,
on October 6, 1895, his hand was still steady.
Mr. Graham was a member of the first class that ever entered Da-
vidson College, the class that graduated in 1840, and was a man of unusual
intelligence. For many years he was superintendent of the Sunday School,
nobody seems to know how many. He was certainly superintendent as far
back as I can remember. And, by the way, it is strange what a Sunday School
lad does remember. I remember how he used to go out to the front en-
trance of the church and ring a handbell for Sunday School and again for
church service. I also remember that he opened the Sunday School practical-
ly every Sunday with the hymn "Another six days' work is done." And I
remember that near the close of his prayer he generally said, "Paul may
plant and Apollos may water, but God alone giveth the increase."
He was well versed in the doctrines and government of the church and
it has been said that he was sent to more meetings of Presbytery, Synod and
the General Assembly than any other elder Thyatira ever had.
John P. Silliman was born January 17, 1818 and died July 16, 1891.
The first meeting of the session he attended was February 19, 1855. From
those dates it will be seen that he was an elder for more than thirty-five years.
His father, James Silliman, who died in 1848, had been a member of the
session for many years. Inasmuch as he married my mother's sister, I knew
him as "Uncle John Silliman." I remember him as a man of deep piety,
but somewhat austere. He held to high standards of Christian living, and
was faithful in his attendance upon meetings of the session and in the
performance of his duties as an elder.
John R. Lowrance was elected an elder at the same time as Mr. Gra-
ham and Mr. Silliman. He was the son of the venerable Alexander Low-
rance. His first meeting with the session was on February 19, 1855. His
name does not appear in the minutes of the session after October, 1863.
His death occurred on November 15, 1866.
Major Newberry F. Hall was born April 28, 1811, and died March 3,
1889- He was received into Thyatira on certificate from Unity Church
September 7, 1856. On November 10, 1860 he was ordained an elder and
filled that office with faithfulness for twenty-nine years. He was a man of
prominence in the county and represented Rowan in the State Legislature
for a time. He represented Thyatira frequently at meetings of Presbytery
and Synod. Because of his wide experience and reading, he was the most
interesting conversationalist in the community. I recall how as a boy I
Centennial, Civil War, Reconstruction 43
used to hang on his words as he talked to groups of men and boys who
gathered in front of the church before service.
Henry Sechler was born January 31, 1787 and died October 2, 1875.
He was received into Thyatira upon profession April 15, 1855. On May
20, 1855 his wife, four daughters and one son were received into Thyatira
on certificate from Mount Zion Reformed Church. They all became valu-
able members of Thyatira. He was ordained an elder on November 10,
1860, at the age of seventy-three and filled that office to the end of his life.
He was especially noted for his piety.
In this connection there is an item that touched me deeply. His son,
John F. Sechler, before enlisting in the Confederate Army, at the age of
forty, made his will on September 12, 1861. It is recorded in an old account
book kept by the deacons. In the will he directed that all his property, both
personal and real, be sold, that one hundred dollars be given to each of his
four sisters and that the residue be placed in the hands of the deacons of
Thyatira "for the cause of the promotion of true religion in that particular
church." In less than a year he was dead. His gravestone says, "Died July
28, 1862 of wounds received at Malvern Hill."
Joseph Henderson was ordained an elder on July 17, 1864 and filled
that office until his death on December 28, 1871. Prior to his election as an
elder he was a deacon. It is interesting to note that while he was a deacon
the session sent a committee to see him to urge him to refrain from erecting
and operating a whiskey distillery. He finally acceded to the wishes of the
session. A few years later he was elected an elder. He must have won the
full confidence of the people.
Alfred F. Goodman was born May 19, 1838 and died January 19, 1916.
He was elected an elder on July 30, 1876 and served in that office until
his death, a total of nearly forty years. While I was still a young man, a
friend, who was critical, challenged me to point out the members of Thya-
tira who were letting their light so shine as to cause others to glorify God.
The first person I pointed to was Mr. Goodman. That shows the impression
which an elder made upon at least one young person, and I am sure that
all the young people of the church and the older ones too would have agreed
with my estimate. Even the critic agreed with me.
By his deep piety, his irreproachable life, his faithfulness to duty, and
his sense of humor, Mr. Goodman came as near being an ideal elder as any
elder I have even known. The session frequently sent him on difficult
missions to see wayward members. The very day he was ordained, the
session appointed him a member of a committee to negotiate with Back
44 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
Creek, with a view to getting Back Creek join with Thyatira in calling a
pastor. The mission was successful. His home was a Christian home. One
son, J.W.M. Goodman, became a Presbyterian minister; another son, John
F. Goodman, was an elder in Thyatira from 1902 to 1910 and is now an
elder in the Presbyterian Church of Hendersonville, N. C; still another son,
"Walter A. Goodman, is a deacon in the First Presbyterian Church of Salis-
bury. His only daughter, the wife of J. Samuel McCorkle, clerk of the
session, has been an active and efficient worker in Thyatira for many years.
The records show that Mr. Goodman frequently represented Thyatira in
meetings of the Presbytery and of the Synod.
J. Samuel McCubbins was elected an elder in Thyatira on July 30,
1876, and continued to hold this office until he moved his membership to
the First Church of Salisbury in 1882. He lived a mile west of the church
on what was formerly known as the Kerr place, but is now known as the
Beeker place. He was essentially a business man and liked to see the affairs
of the church conducted in a business way. It was largely through his in-
fluence that the Rev. J. Alston Ramsay was secured as pastor of Thyatira.
The elders whose names are given above had placed upon them the
responsibility of guiding the church through the difficult years of the Civil
War and Reconstruction. For the most part they were years of poverty and
demoralization. In reading the minutes of the session I got the impression
that they did their work with wisdom and with great diligence and fidelity.
All honor to their memories.
In his Centennial Address, Dr. Alexander had a great deal to say about
the elders, but not a word about the deacons, which leaves us wondering
whether Thyatira had any deacons in the early years. The first reference that
I have been able to find in the minutes of the session concerning the elec-
tion and ordination of deacons was in 1876. In the history of Third Creek
Church, which dates back nearly as far as Thyatira, there is this statement:
"No records are available of election, ordination and installation of deacons
in this church prior to the year 1869."
All this is probably explained by the fact that prior to the division
of the Presbyterian Church into north and south, in 1861, the undivided
church placed less emphasis upon the office of deacon than our Church does
now. In fact the northern branch of the Church does not even now place as
much emphasis upon the deacon's office as the southern branch does. In
the southern branch there are more deacons than elders. In the northern
Centennial, Civil War, Reconstruction 45
branch there are twice as many elders as deacons. In the northern branch
much of the work which we assign to deacons is assigned to the trustees.
However, there is abundant evidence that there were deacons in Thya-
tira Church long before 1876. The obituary notice of Joshua Miller, who
died on January 21, 1877, states that he was ordained a deacon in Thyatira
in 1855. Old receipts given by pastors for payments on their salaries indi-
cate that he was treasurer of the church from 1869 to 1876. He may have
been treasurer prior to 1869. In June, 1857, the session appointed him to
be agent in the congregation for the North Carolina Presbyterian, then
published at Fayetteville. They must have had something similar to what
we call "Church Paper Week."
In his will, made in September, 1861, John F. Sechler, after making
certain provisions for his sisters, willed the residue of his estate to the
deacons of Thyatira.
On October 9, 1864, the session passed the following resolution:
"That the deacons be requested to report to the session at the close of each
year whether the pastor's salary has all been collected, and if not how much
is behind and from whom."
At a meeting of the session in December, 1871, it is stated that J. F.
Carrigan, a deacon, met with the session. There is no indication how long
before that he had been a deacon. From 1879 to 1891 he was treasurer of
And now we come to the first sessional record of the election, ordina-
tion and installation of deacons. In October, 1876, John C. Gillespie and
John L. Graham were elected, ordained and installed. James B. Parker was
elected at the same time but declined. In August, 1877 Wilson A. Lingle,
my father, and Rufus Albright were elected, ordained and installed. This
brings us to the end of one era and the beginning of another. But before
passing on it may be interesting to look at the work of the deacons back in
The Work of the Deacons
Back in those days the work of the deacons consisted mainly in raising
the pastor's salary and passing their hats for the collection on Sunday. In
my boyhood days there were no collection plates and the deacons literally
used their hats in taking up the collection. Collections were frequently taken
for "contingent expenses." I did not know what that meant, but the word
"contingent" rather appealed to my imagination.
Raising the pastor's salary was something else. In electing deacons,,
46 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
geographical considerations cut quite a figure. It was highly desirable that
there should be a deacon located in every part of the congregation. Then
each deacon was assigned the families in his neighborhood and he was
expected to see each family, especially the head of the family, to see how
much that family would subscribe to the pastor's salary. I remember how
my father, after a hard day's work on the farm, would often mount a horse
in the evening and ride out among the neighbors to secure subscriptions to
the salary of the pastor. Then later on, when the subscribers had sold some
cotton or other farm produce, it was his duty to go out and collect the sub-
scriptions in whole or in part. There is an old record book, covering many
years, which shows what each person subscribed. The subscriptions for the
most part were pitifully small. Those were hard and cruel days of poverty
after the Civil War.
The deacons paid the pastor in irregular installments and then at the
end of the year they would have a grand settlement. Sometimes the full
amount promised the pastor was not paid even at the end of the year. The
preacher must have been hard up at times. In an old record book there is a
letter which one of the pastors wrote to the treasurer of the church, calling
attention to the fact that two members had just sold some cotton and sug-
gesting that it might be a good time to see them. The preacher must have
been hungry when he wrote that letter. But let us remember that back in
those days most of the members were hard up too. At any rate, the present
plan for looking after the finances of the church is more excellent than
the plan they had in those olden days.
Elders of Thyatira Presbyterian Church
Front Roiv: (left to right ) — Rev. James R. Phipps, Harold Graham, J. S. McCorkle, ( clerk )
Back Roiv: (left to right) — Locke Neel, James A. Sloan, Carl Hall, O. C. Shoaf, Herron
Kistler. Loiver inset left: J. C. Carrigan; Lower inset right: Scott Krider.
A NEW ERA
THE Rev. J. Alston Ramsay was ordained and installed as pastor of
Thyatira on May 19, 1877, and continued as pastor for fourteen years.
This was the longest pastorate in the history of the church, with the excep-
tion of that of Dr. Samuel E. McCorkle. With the coming of Mr. Ramsay, a
new and brighter era began for Thyatira. Divisions, Civil War, Recon-
struction and long periods without a pastor, all of which had disrupted the
work of the church, were things of the past.
Mr. Ramsay was a native of Salisbury and a graduate of Davidson
College and Union Theological Seminary. He was not quite twenty-five
when he became pastor of Thyatira, but inasmuch as he wore a full beard,
according to the custom of the time, he looked very much older than that
to a boy of nine. My earliest recollection of him is in connection with his
marriage which took place October 7, 1877. When it was noised abroad
that he was going to Virginia to get his bride, the interest and curiosity of
the people knew no bounds, and I, aged nine, was one of the people. He
married Miss Isabella Venable McNutt of Hampden-Sydney, Virginia.
As there was no manse, Mr. Ramsay and his bride lived for a little over
two years at the home of Mr. J. S. McCubbins, a mile west of the church,
now known as the Beeker place. In that connection, I had one of the most
embarrassing experiences of my life. At that time the Mill Bridge Post
Office was kept in the home of Mr. McCubbins. The mail arrived about
twice a week and I was frequently sent to get our family mail. One day I
arrived while they were still sorting the mail and putting the letters into
pigeon holes, and the bride was helping. They motioned to me to take a
seat in a rocking chair. Directly the bride handed me a letter. I arose to get
it. When I went to sit down the chair rocked out from under me and I
sat down on the floor with a thud. The bride laughed. That added to my
embarrassment. But I do not see how she could have helped it.
48 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
It soon became apparent to the congregation that there was urgent need
for a manse and they proceeded to build one. The work began in the fall
of 1879- Every man that could handle a saw and a hammer took part. By
the spring of 1880 they had a comfortable two-story manse ready for oc-
cupancy. I helped to haul the rocks that were used for walling the well, and
thus had a small part in it. I still remember how cold those stones were as
I picked them up in the fiields on a frosty morning and tossed them into
the wagon. That manse was displaced by a new and better one in 1927.
It was not long until the older people were saying that Mr. Ramsay
was the best preacher in the Presbytery. I heard them say it frequently. But
his sermons were a bit too abstract and theological, at least for one small
boy. No doubt the resolutions passed by the congregation at the close of
his pastorate at Thyatira give a just appraisal of him and his ministry when
they say: "Whose ability as a preacher is far above the average; whose
faithfulness and Christian zeal is unsurpassed; whose soundness of faith
and doctrine is indisputable; and who by the blamelessness of his life and
the kind and sympathetic character of his pastoral work has made for him-
self a place in the affections of all Christian people." That is high praise
from a congregation of Scotch-Irish people, who are not given to overstate-
There were no great revivals at Thyatira during his pastorate. He was
a teaching preacher rather than an evangelist. But the annual reports to
Presbytery indicate that there was a steady growth. One hundred and five
persons were received into Thyatira on profession during his pastorate.
The total membership grew from 126 to 202. The Sunday School grew
from 70 to 155. His special mission seems to have been to unify, organize
One of the finest things done during his pastorate was the establishment
of a Christian classical school, somewhat after the pattern of Dr. McCorkle's
Zion-Parnassus. Previous attempts had been made to establish such a
school but had not succeeded. For example, Stephen Frontis, Jr., no doubt
the son of the minister by that name, started the "Thyatira High School"
immediately after the Civil War. There is in my possession an elaborate
report sheet, dated October 27, 1865, showing the grades of John M. Cowan.
This sheet indicates that the school offered twenty-five different courses,
including Latin, Greek, French, Algebra, Geometery and History. When
the school began and when it was discontinued we do not know.
The classical school that was started during Mr. Ramsay's pastorate
fared better than that. A two-story frame building which is still standing
A New Era 49
was erected about thirty yards from the southwest corner of the church
during the spring and summer of 1884. I remember that my father was
greatly interested in that school and served as chairman of the building
committee. Mr. John N. Correll, a native of the Prospect Community, was
secured as teacher, and the school opened in August, 1884. I recall that I
was put to studying Latin, Greek and Algebra during the very first term. As
I had never seen a book on any of the subjects before, I had plenty to
occupy my time and attention. Here in my library is Goodwin's Greek
Reader bearing my name and this inscription: "Bought at Thyatira Decem-
ber 19, 1885."
Mr. Correll proved to be an inspirational teacher. There was some-
thing about him that made a boy want to study. He was a very fine Christian
character and meant even more to me by what he was than by what he
taught. His work in the church was also very helpful. Among other things
he organized a weekly prayer meeting for boys and men in which some of
us learned to lead in prayer for the first time in our lives. In the summer
of 1889 Mr. Correll moved to Taylorsville, N. C, where he taught for a
number of years, and then moved to Texas, where he did notable work in
the field of education.
From the fall of 1889 to the spring of 1891 Mr. R.E.C. Lawson, who
had studied at Davidson College for three years, taught the classical school
at Thyatira. During that time he studied theology privately under Mr. Ram-
say, and a year or two later married Miss Margaret McNutt, Mrs. Ramsay's
sister. After attending Union Theological Seminary for the session of
1891-92 Mr. Lawson became a very useful minister.
In June 1891 Mr. Ramsay accepted a call to Hickory, North Carolina.
About that time a public school was started at Mill Bridge. As a result of
this combination of circumstances the classical school at Thyatira was
closed. But, like Zion-Parnassus of old it did a great work while it lasted,
and meant a great deal to the church and the community. Quite a number
of its students went into the ministry, and other forms of Christian service.
Mr. Ramsay took a very active part in the work of the Presbytery,
Synod and General Assembly. He was stated clerk of the Synod of North
Carolina from 1886 to 1899- In 1890 Concord Presbytery employed him to
make a copy of all the old minutes of Presbytery, make an index to them and
put them in form for permanet use. This he did in his clear, legible hand.
The minutes thus copied, covering the period from 1795 to 1892, make
eight or ten large leather-bound volumes, and are now stored in the fire-
proof vaults of the Presbyterian Historical Society at Montreat, N. C. In
50 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
recognition of his ability and distinguished service, the Presbyterian College
of South Carolina in 1897 bestowed upon him the honorary degree of
Doctor of Divinity. After a successful pastorate of about nine years in
Hickory, Dr. Ramsay died there on January 11, 1900. His son, Julius Mc-
Nutt Ramsay, the only member of the family living, is now an elder in
the Presbyterian Church of Valdese, N. C.
The Rev. John A. Harris began his ministry at Thyatira as stated
supply the first Sunday in July, 1891. A little later the congregation called
him and on the first Sunday in January he was ordained and installed pastor,
and continued as pastor until the middle of October, 1898. He was a
graduate of Davidson College and Union Theological Seminary. His grades
at Davidson College indicate that he was a man of real ability. At the same
time he was a very humble man.
Mr. Harris wanted to go to Africa as a missionary, but for some reason
the Executive Committee of Foreign Missions did not appoint him. It may
be because he was regarded as somewhat eccentric. However, he always
had the missionary spirit in his pastoral work. He especially enjoyed visit-
ing in the homes of the lowly. Not only so, but he was always on the look-out
for points where a Sunday School or church might be established. For a
number of years he held services at China Grove, in addition to his labors
as pastor of Thyatira and Back Creek. As a result a Presbyterian Church
was organized at China Grove, which in 1898 reported a membership of
about fifty, with one hundred and fifteen pupils in the Sunday School. But
as most of the members moved away, the church at China Grove was dis-
continued after ten or twelve years. It has in recent years been resuscitated.
Mr. Harris was a good preacher and a good pastor. Inasmuch as he
was not married, he devoted more than his usual amount of time to his
pastoral work. The church moved along in a normal way during his min-
istry. A total of more than fifty members were received on profession while
he was pastor. When he left, Thyatira had a total membership of 175, with
120 pupils in the Sunday School. After leaving Thyatira, he went into home
mission work in the heart of the mountains of North Carolina, where he
did a noble work until his death on November 8, 1924. A note in the
Presbyterian Ministers Directory says: "Prevented from going to Africa
as a foreign missionary, Mr. Harris bequeathed his life savings of more than
$20,000.00 to work in Africa." He being dead yet speaketh.
A little more than a year and a half elapsed before a permanent pastor
was secured. During that period the Rev. George L. Cook and the Rev.
John W. Lafferty served the church well as stated supplies.
A New Era 51
The Rev. John A. Gilmer was ordained and installed as pastor of
Thyatira in July, 1900 and continued as pastor until October, 1904. After
graduating from Davidson College in 1880 he taught school for nineteen
years. In the meantime he studied theology privately. After that he took a
year at Union Theological Seminary and entered the ministry. So he was
a mature man when he came to Thyatira. In July, 1884 he married Miss
Lottie Avery of Morganton, who was of great help to him in the work of
As a man of forty-three when he became pastor, Mr. Gilmer appealed
especially to the older people, both in his preaching and in his pastoral
work. He was a good, solid preacher and a sympathetic pastor. Mrs. Gilmer
made a strong appeal to the women of the church and helped them to
organize for service as we shall see later. The church prospered during the
four years of their stay. There was one gracious revival, in which Dr.
A. R. Shaw did the preachings. That year there were twenty-nine added
to the church on profession. During his pastorate, a total of fifty-six were
added on profession. At the close of his pastorate, Thyatira reported a
membership of two hundred and eight, with one hundred and twenty-five
pupils in the Sunday School. From Thyatira Mr. and Mrs. Gilmer went to
Newton and later to Mt. Airy, N. C He passed to his reward on October 20,
The Rev. J. B. Branch, a licentiate, served Thyatira as stated supply
after Mr. Gilmer left. The people liked him so well that they called him,
but instead of remaining with Thyatira, he felt impelled to take a post-
graduate course in Princeton Theological Seminary. After that he had a
useful ministry until his death on July 8, 1931.
The Rev. Walter M. Walsh was installed as pastor of Thyatira in the
spring of 1906 and continued as pastor until January 3, 1911. He was a
graduate of Davidson College and Union Theological Seminary, and had
served a group of churches in Mecklenburg Presbytery before coming to
Thyatira. Mr. Walsh was noted for his piety and my first thought of him is
that he is a Christian. He was a good preacher and a sympathetic pastor.
During his pastorate, my mother and two sisters died. I remember what a
good pastor he was to them and how sympathetic he was with those who
sorrowed. More than forty members were received into the Church on
profession during his pastorate. The year he left, the church reported a
membership of two hundred and the Sunday School enrollment was one
hundred and ninety. The minutes of the session indicate that during this
period, many families were moving from the country to nearby towns
52 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
and were asking for their church letters. Since leaving Thyatira, Mr. Walsh
has had a very fruitful ministry as pastor of other churches. At this writing
(1948), he is pastor at Morven, N. C.
During the year or more that elapsed before another pastor was secured,
the church was served by stated supplies. Among them was the Rev. J. A.
McQueen who has been professor of Bible in Westminister College, Fulton,
Missouri for the past twenty years.
The Rev. J. C. Grier was elected pastor on June 1, 1912, was ordained
and installed September 12, 1912, and continued as pastor until April 31,
1916. He was a graduate of Davidson College and Union Theological Semi-
nary, and was not yet twenty-five years of age when called. He was un-
married and remained unmarried until after he left Thyatira. The statistics
indicate that the church made good progress during his pastorate. Between
thirty-five and forty members were received on profession. The total mem-
bership when he left was two hundred and two, and the Sunday School
enrollment was two hundred and seventeen. For the past twenty years he
has been pastor of Mulberry Church in Mecklenburg Presbytery, where his
ministry has been blessed.
The Rev. Edward Douglas Brown began his ministry at Thyatira on
October 1, 1916, and continued as pastor until February 1, 1927. He was
a native of Steele Creek congregation near Charlotte and a graduate of Da-
vidson College and Union Theological Seminary. He was forty-seven years
of age and had held several pastorates before coming to Thyatira. He had
also married Miss Frances D. Payne of Kinston, N. C, who was an active
church worker both in the local church and in the Presbytery. Dr. and Mrs.
Brown seem to have fit perfectly into the Thyatira situation. Over ninety
members were received into the church on profession during his pastorate.
When he left, the total membership of the church was two hundred and
thirty-five and the Sunday School enrollment was two hundred and seventy-
five. Probably for the first time in its history, Thyatira had a preaching
service every Sunday during the larger part of Dr. Brown's pastorate. This
was made possible by the automobile and good roads, which enabled the
pastor to preach at Thyatira in the morning and Back Creek in the afternoon,
or at Back Creek in the morning and Thyatira in the afternoon. This ar-
rangement gave Thyatira morning services on the first, third and fifth Sun-
days and afternoon services on the other two Sundays.
Dr. Brown took an active part in the work of the Presbytery, the synod
and the church at large. From 1914 to 1941 he was stated clerk of Concord
Presbytery. In 1922 he was elected Moderator of the Synod of North
A New Era 53
Carolina. From 1913 to 1944 he was a trustee of Davidson College. From
1924 to 1942 he was a trustee of Union Theological Seminary. For a num-
ber of years he was a trustee of Lees-McRae College at Banner Elk, N. C. He
also served on numerous committees of the Presbytery and Synod. In recog-
nition of his ability and distinguished service, Davidson College in 1922
conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
After leaving Thyatira, Dr. Brown had a fruitful ministry as pastor
of several churches in Iredell County. He was called to his eternal reward
on January 12, 1946.
The Rev. J. E. Guthrie began his ministry at Thyatira on May 1, 1927
and continued as pastor until August 10, 1937. He was a graduate of
Hampden-Sydney College and Union Theological Seminary. At the time
of his coming to Thyatira, he was forty-two years of age and had had con-
siderable experience in the ministry. He was a very good preacher and a
faithful pastor. The records show that seventy persons were added to the
church on profession during his pastorate. At the close of his pastorate,
the church had two hundred and eighty members and a Sunday School en-
rollment of two hundred and forty-five.
From the records and from my own personal observation, I have the
impression that he had two special interests. He was deeply interested in
the young people and in the improvement of church property. Before he
had been at Thyatira a month he asked the session to authorize him to
organize the young people. He showed his interest in the young people by
taking groups of them on interesting trips. I ran across him and a large
group of boys in Winston-Salem on one occasion. He was showing the
boys the industrial plants, the banks, the newspaper offices and other points
of interest in Winston-Salem. On another occasion I had a letter from him
asking if I could arrange for a group of boys to get tickets to a football
game at Davidson College without too great a cost. I was able to arrange
it without any cost. The boys came and had a good time.
Speaking of church improvements, he had been at Thyatira less than
two months when a movement was started to build a new manse. It was
completed and ready to occupy by December, 1927. He next began to
talk about electric lights for the church. In due time they were installed but
I do not know the date. In 1931 a committee was appointed to look after
the improvement of the church grounds and better care of the cemetery.
The old iron cemetery gate, which had been loaned to Dr. Frazer Hood
of Davidson College, was brought back and placed again at the entrance of
the cemetery, between two substantial stone pillars. It is said that the
54 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
gate was made by hand by Mr. Billy Cooper, about the year 1825. His
shop was near the present site of Concordia Lutheran Church. The gate
has quite an interesting history, which is told more fully in Dr. Thomas
W. Lingle's History of Thyatira. Provision was also made for better care
of the cemetery.
Since leaving Thyatira, Mr. Guthrie has had a useful ministry and is
now (1948) pastor of a group of churches in Virginia, with his home at
Phenix. In all his work as as a minister, Mrs. Guthrie has been a devoted
From August, 1937 to June, 1938, Dr. W. S. Wilson, whose home
was at Davidson College, served the church as stated supply. He was a
retired minister of large experience and was greatly beloved by the church.
The Rev. Henry S. Robinson began his ministry at Thyatira on June
1, 1938. However, he was not installed until August 21, 1938. He con-
tinued as pastor until October 31, 1942. He was a graduate of Davidson
College and Columbia Theological Seminary, and was twenty-eight years
of age when he became pastor of Thyatira. His grades at Davidson College
indicate that he was a man of real ability. His preaching was above the
average and he was diligent as a pastor. During his short pastorate more
than thirty members were received upon profession. At the close of his
pastorate, Thyatira reported two hundred and seventy-three members with
a Sunday School enrollment of two hundred and thirty-four.
During his pastorate, the interior of the church was given a thorough
overhauling at a cost of approximately twelve hundred dollars, and thereby
greatly improved. During his pastorate, on November 18, 1940, a com-
mittee was appointed to study plans and start a movement for a new Sun-
day School building, a need that had been felt for a long time. As far back
as 1920 a committee was appointed to study the possibility of converting
the galleries into Sunday School classrooms. The committee on the new
Sunday School building is still at work and a handsome sum has been raised
for that purpose. The building would have probably been erected by this
time if the cost of living and building had not gone so alarmingly high.
Upon leaving Thyatira, Mr. Robinson took a charge in Mississippi,
but he has since returned to North Carolina and is now pastor of Mallard
Creek Church near Charlotte.
The Rev. James R. Phipps, the present pastor, began his ministry at
Thyatira February 1, 1943. He is an alumnus of Davidson College and
Union Theological Seminary. He had had more than fifteen years of ex-
perience as preacher and pastor before coming to Thyatira. The church
Deacons of Thyatira Presbyterian Church
Front Row: (left to right) — J. E. Deal, Owen Harrison, Emory Graham.
Back Roiv: (left to right) — Lee Goodnight, James Baker, S. D. Corriher, J. B. Caldwell, Jr.,
Grady Hall, Kenneth Shoaf, R. L. Steele. Loiver inset left: George F. Houck; Lower inset
right: John Wilson.
A New Era 55
has prospered under his ministry. His wife, who was a student at the
General Assembly's Training School in Richmond, has been a true help-
meet not only in the home but in the work of the church. There could be
no finer testimony of Mr. Phipps' ministry than the fact that Thyatira
called him for his full time, beginning June 1, 1946. So far as we know,
this is the first time in its history that Thyatira has ever had a pastor for
his whole time. At a congregational meeting on April 18, 1948 plans for
the new Sunday School building were approved and the building com-
mittee was authorized to proceed with its erection as soon as the way is
clear. The cornerstone was laid with appropriate exercises on November
14, 1948. This building will mean much to the church and the community
for many years to come.
The Elders of This Period
Hugh W. Silliman was born February 13, I860, was ordained an elder
December 20, 1885 and died March 26, 1935. The records indicate that
he was faithful in his performance of his duties as an elder during this
long term of service. His father and grandfather had been elders in
Columbus C. Miller was ordained an elder on December 20, 1885 and
filled the office with diligence until he moved to Mooresville and took his
membership with him on August 12, 1899.
James W. Sloan was born July 11, I860, elected an elder on March 1,
1891 and died on February 19, 1935. He served as temporary clerk of the
session from December, 1895 to April, 1897. In May, 1903 he became
permanent clerk of the session and filled that office with great faithfulness
until April, 1935. He was also active in the work of the Sunday School.
James Franklin Carrigan was born December 3, 1829 and died June
17, 1904. He and Dr. Samuel Kerr were elected elders in 1864, but both
declined. Sometime after that, Mr. Carrigan was made a deacon. In the
minutes of the session in 1871, he is referred to as a deacon. He remained
a deacon for at least twenty-one years and served as treasurer of the church
from 1879 to 1892. On April 3, 1892 he was again elected to the eldership
and served until his death. He was the clerk of the session from 1897 to
1903. In addition to these services to the church, he taught a Sunday School
class of boys and young men for years. I was a member of his class and
remember him with affection. A personal experience will indicate the
interest that he took in the members of his class. When I started to college,
Mr. Carrigan, knowing that my father was dead and that I had very little
56 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
money, called me aside and told me that if I needed money at any time
I could borrow it from him without security. I availed myself of that offer
on several occasions. The phrase "without security" meant as much to me
as the money. It meant that he believed in me and trusted me, and that is
worth a great deal to a boy.
E. Scott Miller was ordained an elder on December 7, 1902, and filled
that office faithfully until he moved his membership to the First Church
of Salisbury on March 31, 1929- For a number of years he was assistant
choir leader and after that the leader. He was elected assistant superin-
tendent of the Sunday School in 1898. From 1918 to 1926 he was superin-
tendent. After moving to Salisbury he was made an elder in the First Pres-
byterian Church and filled that position until his death on February 6, 194L
John F. Goodman was ordained an elder December 7, 1902. He was
dismissed by letter to Spencer on March 1, 1910. Later he moved his mem-
bership to the First Presbyterian Church of Hendersonville, N. C, where
he has been an elder for many years. "He is one of the godliest men I know."
This his pastor recently wrote me.
Joseph F. Turner was born on February 22, 1868, was ordained an
elder June 19, 1910, and died September 15, 1939- The minutes indicate
that he was a faithful elder for twenty-nine years, attending meetings of the
session with great regularity and frequently representing Thyatira at meet-
ings of Concord Presbytery.
J. Samuel McCorkle was ordained an elder on June 19, 1910, and is
now the senior member of the session. He has been clerk of the session
since April 1, 1935. Mr. McCorkle is the great-great-grandson of Dr.
Samuel E. McCorkle.
J. S. Harrison was elected an elder on October 31, 1926 and filled
that office with great faithfulness until his death February 6, 1945. He
frequently represented the church at meetings of Concord Presbytery.
Through the years he served the church in various capacities. For example,
in 1917 he was elected treasurer of the benevolent causes of the church
and filled that position for many years.
Mr. J. Chalmers Carrigan, who had served as a deacon for forty-four
years, and as treasurer of the church for many of those years, was elected
an elder on March 15, 1936, and filled that office with devotion until his
death on April 12, 1948. He thus served the church in an official capacity
for more than fifty-six years. In his will he left to Thyatira securities which
were valued at more than two thousand and five hundred dollars.
A New Era 57
Elders who are serving at present (1948) with the dates of their
election or ordination:
J. Samuel McCorkle June 19, 1910
O. C. Shoaf November 14, 1936
B. S. Krider June 30, 1929
C. W. Hall June 30, 1929
James A. Sloan March 15, 1936
C. L. Neel, Jr July 21, 1940
W. Herron Kistler March 23, 1947
J. Harold Graham March 23, 1947
Below is a list of all the deacons in the history of Thyatira whose
names have been recorded, with the years they served. No doubt there were
a number of other deacons in the past but there is no record of their names.
Joshua Miller 1855 - 1877
Joseph Henderson - 1864
J. F. Carrigan 1871 - 1892
John C. Gillespie 1876 -
John L. Graham 1876 - 1891
Wilson A. Lingle 1877 - 1886
Rufus Albright 1877 - 1887
Columbus A. Sloop 1882 - 1929
Samuel F. Baker 1886 - 1938
J. W. Goodman 1888 - 1898
J. Chalmers Carrigan 1892 - 1936
Henry N. Goodnight 1892 - 1907
Joseph S. Hall 1902 - 1935
John L. Patterson - 1916
Robert L. Albright 1917 - 1944
Robert L. Steele 1929 - 1948
If space permitted I would like to pay tribute to each of the individuals
mentioned above. A number of them served the church for many years. All
of them served well. As already noted, Joshua Miller was treasurer of the
church from 1869 to 1876. J. F. Carrigan was treasurer from 1879 to
1892. In 1892 he was succeeded as treasurer by his son, J. Chalmers Carri-
58 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
Samuel F. Baker was a deacon for fifty-two years, the longest any
deacon ever served in the history of the church. For much of that time
he was treasurer. Mr. Joseph S. Hall was elected to the eldership in 1891
but declined, but accepted the office of deacon eleven years later.
Deacons Today (1948)
G. F. Houck ordained December 8, 1902
Jacob E. Deal elected October 3, 1908
J. W. Wilson ordained June 30, 1929
E. K. Graham ordained March 15, 1936
S. D. Corriher ordained March 15, 1936
J. O. Harrison ordained March 15, 1936
James S. Baker ordained July 21, 1940
Kenneth Shoaf ordained July 21, 1940
F. Grady Hall ordained March 23, 1947
G. Lee Goodnight ordained March 23, 1947
J. B. Caldwell, Jr ordained March 23, 1947
As one reads the minutes of the session from the beginning, he gets
the impression that the members of the session have been very faithful in
the performance of their duties. As a rule the session has always met regu-
larly and its members have been punctual in attendance. The session has
always been faithful in appointing representatives to the presbytery and to
the synod, and in requiring reports from them upon their return.
The session has also performed its duty as the governing body of
the church. All departments of the church have been under the control
of the session — the Sunday School, the various societies, the music, and all.
Reports have also been required from the deacons of the church. In the
exercise of this authority, the session does not seem to have been unreason-
able, or to have attempted in any way to lord it over God's heritage.
The Apostle Paul exhorted the elders of Ephesus "to take heed to
the flock." This the elders of Thyatira in the past have done faithfully. I
was especially impressed by this fact in reading over the minutes. If a
member seemed to go astray, the session sent a committee to see him, talk
with him and pray with him. If it became known that a member used pro-
fanity, a committee was sent to see him. More than one committee was
sent to see members who indulged too freely in intoxicants. A committee
was sent to see a deacon who was planning to erect a whiskey distillery. At
A New Era 59
first he intimated that it was none of their business. Another committee
was sent to request him to appear before the session. He sent back word
that he was going out of the business. A few years later he was elected an
elder. These visits from members of the session must have done him a great
deal of good.
I was especially struck by the fact that the session again and again
sent committees to see members who had been absent from the church
services for a considerable time. The excuses these members gave sound
very modern. One excuse was rather unique. The member said that when
his wife died, he could not bear to go to church without her. Then he
married again and his second wife did not want to go to church, so he did
not go. The visits of these committees to absent members usually produced
This paragraph would not be complete without reference to the old
session house which was still in use when I united with the church in 1883.
It was built of hewn logs and was located fifty or seventy-five yards from
the northwest corner of the church. It was probably built when the second
or third church building was erected. A great many members were received
into the church in that old session house. I wish that it could have been
preserved as a memorial of the past.
The Sunday School
It is not known when the Sunday School first began at Thyatira. Dr.
McCorkle had a Sunday School back in his day, as reference to the early
part of this history will show. In the Life of John Barr, written by his
grandson in 1850, we find this statement: "The Sabbath School had his
instructions as a stated teacher of a class composed of young men of colour,,
until his last sickness." John Barr died in 1831. The Sunday School referred
to was probably at Back Creek where John Barr took his membership in
1805. But if Back Creek had a Sunday School prior to 1831, Thyatira
probably had one also, but there are no early records.
The first references to the Sunday School in the minutes of the session
occur when Mr. John K. Graham was superintendent. He was made an
elder in 1855 and probably took charge of the Sunday School shortly after
that, and continued as superintendent until his death in November, 1895.
After his death, Mr. J. F. Carrigan seems to have served as superintendent
for several years, though there is no record of the fact. In May, 1898, Mr.
A. F. Goodman was elected superintendent and Mr. E. Scott Miller was
elected assistant superintendent. Sometime before the death of Mr. Good-
60 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
man, which occurred in January, 1916, Mr. Miller was elected superin-
tendent, but the date of his election is not clear. In February, 1916, Mr.
Miller was re-elected and Mr. J. W. Sloan was made assistant superintendent.
In January, 1926 Mr. Miller resigned and Mr. James A. Sloan was elected
superintendent and has continued to fill that office to this time ( 1948) .
The names of the other officers and teachers in the Sunday School have
not been recorded in the records of the church, but I feel sure that they have
been recorded in heaven. Their names would make a long and goodly list.
Many of them served with devotion for years.
The Sunday School endeavors to follow the program mapped out by
the agencies of our General Assembly. The literature prepared by our
Church is used for lesson helps. From the beginning the work of the
Sunday School has been hampered by lack of individual classrooms. Not-
withstanding this handicap, it has done good work and continues to make
progress. At present the average attendance is approximately two hundred
and the enrollment is considerably larger. Everybody is looking forward
eagerly to the day when the Sunday School can have a building of its own,
and everybody seems to be working to that end.
The Women of the Church
Women have always been devoted workers in the church. It has been
said that they were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb. Some of
the best helpers that the Apostle Paul had in his great work were women.
Soon after the Southern Presbyterian Church was organized in 1861, women
began to organize for service.
No doubt women were earnest workers in Thyatira from its very be-
ginning, but there is no record of any organization among the women until
about 1878. The first society had its beginning about that time. The cir-
cumstances were unique. Robbers broke into the church and carried away
practically everything that could be moved. Among the things carried
away were carpets, curtains, the water pitcher, the silver baptismal bowl
and, if my memory serves, the Communion set. I remember how horrified
we were. The text in Malachi kept coming to us: "Will a man rob God?"
Some of the stolen articles were recovered but not all. Money had to
be raised to replace the missing ones, and money was scarce in those days.
Mrs. Ramsay, the minister's bride, about whom I have written, invited some
of the women to the home of Mr. J. S. McCubbins, where she was boarding,
and they planned for a "Festival" at which they served food at so much per
A New Era 61
plate, and thus cleared some money. That was the beginning of the Ladies
The Auxiliary historians say that the next society organized was "The
Ladies Missionary Society," which was organized by Miss Bina Lingle about
1892. The members of this Society studied missions and contributed to
both home and foreign missions.
In 1906 "The Woman's Home and Foreign Missionary Union of
Concord Presbytery" was formed; and an invitation was extended to the
women of Thyatira to join the union. Thyatira being a bit conservative,
they were rather slow about accepting the invitation. But in 1910 Miss
Maggie Parker attended the meeting of the union. At that time the Thya-
tira Missionary Society reported forty-five members and contributions to-
taling $72.40. From that time to this, Thyatira has sent delegates to the
In 1912 the General Assembly of our Church approved of a church-
wide organization of women to be known as "The Woman's Auxiliary."
By this plan all the societies in the local church were to be brought to-
gether into one society known as the Auxiliary. The local Auxiliary in
turn was to be divided into circles. Again the women of Thyatira were
rather cautious about adopting this new plan. But under the leadership of
Mrs. E. D. Brown, the wife of the minister who came to Thyatira in 1916,
the women of Thyatira adopted the Auxiliary plan in 1920. Mrs. Brown
was a gifted, consecrated woman, and did much in the way of organizing
and inspiring the women of the church for a larger service. Her name
will always be held in affectionate remembrance.
The Thyatira Auxiliary tries to follow the yearly program prepared
by the General Assembly's Committee on Woman's Work, with offices in
Atlanta. A few variations have to be made because of local conditions,
the weather and roads. The Thyatira Auxiliary has a membership of ap-
proximately a hundred. The members are divided into six circles, with
sixteen or eighteen members each. The circles meet once a month and
then the entire Auxiliary meets on the third Sunday evening of each month.
These meetings are devoted to study, to prayer and to planning for work
which the Auxiliary should do.
In addition to making liberal contributions to all the causes of the
Church, the Auxiliary does a great deal in the way of practical service. For
example, it clothes a boy at Barium Springs Orphanage each year and makes
numerous other practical contributions to the orphanage. The Auxiliary
also keeps an eye on the manse and adds to its conveniences and comfort
62 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
from time to time. At this time, it is taking especial interest in helping to
raise funds for the erection of the new Sunday School building.
The Auxiliary sends delegates to the Woman's Conference at Mon-
treat each year and helps to pay their expenses, and also helps to pay the
expenses of Negro delegates to the Negro Woman's Conference in Winston-
Salem each year. The members of the Auxiliary entertain the young people
who go away to school or college at a going-away party each fall. These
are only some of the numerous things that the women of Thyatira have
done and are doing.
Like other auxiliaries all over the Church, the Thyatira Auxiliary has
its historians who keep the history of the Auxiliary up to date. As this
history is written, the manuscript is deposited with the Presbyterian His-
torical Foundation at Montreat. I have drawn freely upon those manu-
scripts for the data given above. I have used manuscripts prepared by
Mrs. J. S. Harrison, Mrs. Grady Hall, Mrs. Carl Hall, to all of whom I am
deeply grateful. My only regret is that space does not allow us to publish
those manuscripts in full in this history.
The Young People
Thyatira seems to have realized long ago that the Church of the fu-
ture depends upon the young people of the present. Provision for the
instruction of the young in the Sunday School was made many years ago.
Not only so, but for many years the young people have been organized into
societies for study, for worship and for service.
As already noted, as far back as 1884, Mr. J. N. Correll organized the
boys and young men of the church into what was known as "The Young
Men's Prayer Meeting." This group met every Sunday afternoon for
study, prayer and worship. This organization continued to function for a
number of years.
About the year 1900, Mrs. John A. Gilmer, the pastor's wife, organ-
ized the girls of the church into a group for the study of the Bible and the
causes of the Church, especially foreign missions, and for prayer. The
group met once a month at the manse.
In 1909, Miss Emma Erwin organized a band of "Miriams," composed
of younger girls. They sent contributions to the orphanage and made
quilts for the orphans. They also made scrapbooks for Miss Ella Graham
to be used in her work among the Koreans. In 1915 Mrs. O. O. Harrison
organized "The Girls' Mission Band." There is no record as to how long
each one of these societies continued to function.
SONS OF THE CHURCH
First Row: (left to right) — William H. Lingle, Walter L. Lingle, Thomas W. Lingle, J.
Second Row — J. G. Varner, James Floyd Menius, Frank Fisher Baker, Daniel T. Caldwell
Third Row — Ernest G. Clary, Payne Brown, Samuel M. Houck, G. Foyle Houck, Clyde
A New Era 63
In 1930 "The Young People's League" was organized by the Rev.
and Mrs. J. E. Guthrie. This organization included both boys and girls.
There were regular meetings of the League for study and worship. In
recent years the League has been superseded by "The Presbyterian Youth
Fellowship" group, which is organized according to the plan mapped out
by the General Assembly of our Church. In fact, practically all the organ-
izations named above were modeled after plans suggested by our General
Assembly. This Fellowship group meets twice a month for study and
worship. It seems to be very much alive.
For the first fifty years or more, the Thyatira Church congregation
sang psalms only, using Rouse's version. That was the practice of all
American Presbyterian Churches in that era, and any deviation from the
practice was considered rank heresy. Rouse's version was authorized by
the Westminister Assembly of Divines in 1646. Isaac Watts, the great
hymn writer, did not like this version and proceeded to prepare a metrical
version of the Psalms of David, which was a great improvement over
Rouse's version. About 1802 there was a split in the Providence Presby-
terian Church, near Charlotte, not as to whether they would sing Psalms or
hymns, but whether they would use Rouse's version or Watt's version. That
was a subject of controversy in many churches.
I do not know when our church began to sing hymns. As late as
1830 there was published an authorized edition of metrical psalms by
order of the Presbyterian General Assembly. It is very probable that
Thyatira was singing psalms only at that time. The hymn book that was
used when I was a boy consisted of two parts. In the first part there was a
metrical version of the 150 psalms. In the latter part of the book there were
852 hymns. The book was called "Psalms and Hymns." Most of the psalms
were by Isaac Watts. There were a few by Rouse. The minister frequently
gave out a psalm.
When I was a boy they had a singing school at Thyatira for several
weeks nearly every summer. Mr. Collins and Mr. Freeman, both of Steele
Creek, taught these schools. They taught us to read music, carry tunes and
sing hymns. They also taught us some great anthems. For a long time
the choir sat in front of the pulpit by order of the session. The session
also elected a chorister, or precentor. The minutes of the session indicate
that Mr. Samuel A. Carrigan was the first one to fill this position. After
some years he was succeeded by Mr. E. Scott Miller. Before the introduc-
64 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
tion of an organ, the precentor used a tuning fork to help him to get the
right key or pitch. I still have in my possession one of those old-fashioned
tuning forks. The first organ was introduced about 1887. So far as I recall
there was no controversy over the introduction of instrumental music
as was the case in many churches. At first it was somewhat of a problem
to get a regular organist. The following persons helped with the organ
for the first dozen years or more: Mrs. Kate Lingle Sloan, Mrs. Nannie
Lingle Russell, Miss Fannie Sloan and Miss Effie Kilpatrick.
In January, 1901, the session elected Miss Nannie Sloop (Mrs. O. O.
Harrison) as organist, and Miss Laura Goodman (Mrs. J. S. McCorkle)
assistant organist. Mrs. Harrison resigned in June, 1911, and Mrs. Mc-
Corkle in April, 1913.
Miss Lillian Sloop was elected organist in June, 1911, but there is no
record as to how long she served. She was succeeded by Miss Angie Silli-
man who served for quite a number of years, but the records do not indi-
cate for how long. Miss Isabel Sloop seems to have succeeded Miss Silli-
man, but the records do not say when she was elected, but the record does
say that she resigned as organist April 7, 1936. Miss Ruby Wilson was
elected in May, 1936. She was succeeded by Miss Nan Patterson Turner
(Mrs. M. B. Corriher).
All these deserve the gratitude of the church for the faithfulness with
which they served. It will be noted that some served for a good many years.
Nothing stands out more vividly in my memory than the communion
meetings that were regularly held on the first Sunday in May and the first
Sunday in October in my boyhood days. Each meeting continued for three
days. As a rule a visiting minister did the preaching. There was always a
service on Friday at eleven o'clock. On Saturday there were two services,
with a picnic dinner on the grounds between the services. Then on Sunday
morning there was a solemn sermon followed by the Sacrament of the
Lord's Supper. It was during these meetings that the young people were
expected to unite with the church, and the sermons kept that end in view.
My favorite preacher, of all those who came from time to time to
help in the communion meetings, was Dr. James M. Wharey, who was
pastor of the Rocky River Church, and later of the First Church of Moores-
ville. He was a large man and preached with deep emotion. Not only so,
but he used many illustrations taken from everyday life, or from his exper-
iences as a chaplain in the Confederate Army. That kind of preaching
A New Era 65
made a larger appeal to a boy than abstract theological sermons. But the
one sermon that I remember most distinctly was preached by the Rev.
Paul P. Winn on a Communion Sunday, in which he described most vivid-
ly and realistically the crucifixion of our Lord. It was during one of those
meeting that I united with the church on May 6, 1883.
Meetings of the Presbytery
From time to time the Presbytery of Concord has met at Thyatira. I
remember some of those meetings and they were high occasions. In the
horse and buggy days the Presbytery met for several days at a time. Some
of the members had to come a long way in buggies or on horseback. They
were entertained in the homes of the people and their horses were cared
for in our barns. Dr. Jethro Rumple, who was pastor of the First Presby-
terian Church of Salisbury from I860 to 1906, was always a guest in our
home on such occasions. He was a well-informed and scholarly man, and
I still remember how I hung on his words as he talked with my father
In those days the people counted it a privilege to have the ministers
and elders as guests in their homes. Not only so, but the people attended
the meetings of the Presbytery in large numbers. They seemed to enjoy
the discussions. They especially enjoyed the social hour during dinner, when
a basket dinner was served on the church grounds.
I also remember, with what I hope is pardonable pleasure, the meet-
ing of the Presbytery at Thyatira in September, 1924, when, as retiring
Moderator, I had the privilege of preaching the opening sermon and pre-
siding until a new Moderator was elected. The new Moderator was my
brother, the late Thomas W. Lingle.
Modes of Travel
Nothing illustrates more strikingly the changes that have taken place
in the church and in the community than the changes in the modes of
travel used by the people in getting to church. In his Centennial Address,
Dr. S. C. Alexander referred to the fact that Mr. Alexander Lowrance, then
seventy-eight years of age, frequently walked to church, a distance of three
or four miles. A great many people, even those living at a distance, walked
to church in those early days. A considerable number of people still walked
to church in my boyhood days. Will Rogers, the humorist and philosopher,
said that people nowadays have ridden so much in automobiles that it
winds them to walk to the garage.
66 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
In my boyhood days the larger families came to Thyatira in two-horse
wagons. Each wagon had its regular place to stop. Ours stopped just east
of the church. A few people came in big old-fashioned buggies, with large
wheels and high dashboard. Some came on horseback.
Next came the phaeton. The John K. Grahams had the first one of
these. Others came later. About the same time smaller buggies began to
appear. As phaetons, carriages and buggies became more common, the
wagons began to disappear. Then came the Model T Ford. They soon
displaced other modes of travel. When good roads came, the Fords were
gradually displaced by higher priced cars. So today the visitor to Thyatira
will see a great array of automobiles that are just as attractive as those he
will see parked around the churches in any of the neighboring towns. It
would be wonderful if a church could grow as rapidly in spiritual things
as it does in material comfort.
Sons and Daughters
Thyatira rejoices in the number of her sons and daughters who have
entered the ministry or some form of mission work. The list for the
first hundred years is not complete. We can give only those whose names
Foote in his Sketches of North Carolina says that two of the sons of
Dr. Samuel Eusebius McCorkle became ministers. Dr McCorkle himself
was a Thyatira boy.
The Rev. Josiah McCorkle was in the ministry only one year prior to
his death in Fayetteville, N. C.
The Rev. Abner W. McCorkle, entered the ministry, moved to Ten-
nessee and died there in 1844.
The Rev. William Stewart, the son of an early elder, entered the
ministry, according to a statement made by Dr. S. C. Alexander in his
history of Thyatira.
Dr. Alexander also states that William Bowman, another elder, had
two sons who became ministers and moved to the southwest.
The Rev. Eli W. Caruthers, D.D., a distinguished preacher and author,
was a Thyatira boy. In an article written in 1850, he says: "I was born
within the limits of Dr. McCorkle's congregation (in 1793), was baptized
by him in infancy and spent several of my earlier years under his pastoral
care." Dr. Caruthers was pastor of the Alamance Church near Greensboro
from 1821 to 1861. His death occurred in 1865 and there is a handsome
monument to his memory in the Alamance churchyard.
A New Era 67
The Rev. William Thomas Hall, D.D., L.L.D., was born in 1835, ordain-
ed in 1859, was pastor of several churches, among them the First Presby-
terian Church of Lynchburg, Virginia, and then Professor of Theology in
Columbia Theological Seminary. In 1902 he was Moderator of the Gen-
eral Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, commonly
called the Southern Presbyterian Church. Dr. Hall was an infant in arms
when his father became pastor of Thyatira, and was eleven years of age
when his father left, so he was a Thyatira boy.
The Rev. Kiah Price Julian was a native of Rowan. His boyhood
home was several miles east of Thyatira on the highway to Salisbury. He
united with Thyatira on profession of his faith on January 8, 1868. Later
he moved his membership to Salisbury. In reality he was a Thyatira boy.
He was ordained in 1881, was pastor of churches in Virginia and in
Florida and died in Floyd County, Virginia in 1889.
The Rev. William H. Lingle, D.D., son of Wilson A. and Martha Jane
Lingle, went to Illinois when he was a young man and moved his church
membership to Hillsboro, Illinois. He graduated from Blackburn College
and then from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago in 1890.
Soon after that he went to China under the Foreign Mission Board of
the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. After having done heroic work as a mis-
sionary for forty-three years, he retired to Pasadena, California, where he
died on October 29, 1941.
The Rev. Walter L. Lingle, d.d., l.l.d., the son of Wilson A. and
Martha Jane Lingle, graduated from Davidson College and Union The-
ological Seminary, and was ordained September 26, 1897. He was pastor
of the First Presbyterian Church of Dalton, Georgia; of the First Presby-
terian Church of Rock Hill, South Carolina; and of the First Presbyterian
Church of Atlanta. From 1911 to 1924 he was a professor in Union The-
ological Seminary. Then he was president of the Assembly's Training
School in Richmond for five years. From 1929 to 1941 he was president
of Davidson College. Since 1941 he has been president-emeritus. In 1915
he was Moderator of the Synod of North Carolina, and in 1920 Moderator
of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States
( Southern ) . He is the author of a number of books and has written a page
in the Christian Observer every week for the past seventeen years.
The Rev. Thomas W. Lingle, Ph.D., son of Wilson A. and Martha
Jane Lingle, graduated from Davidson College, the University of Leipsic
( Germany ) , and Princeton Theological Seminary. For three years he was
a professor in McKenzie College, Sao Paulo, Brazil. After that he was
68 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
president of Blackburn College in Illinois. From 1908 to 1937 he was a
professor in Davidson College. He was a great traveler in Europe and
Asia. In 1925 he represented the Presbyterian Church in the United
States at the meeting of the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance in Cardiff, Wales.
The Rev. James William Goodman, son of Alfred F. and Rebecca
Goodman, graduated from Davidson College and Union Theological Semi-
nary, and was ordained in September, 1898. He was pastor of the First
Presbyterian Church of High Point, N. C; of the Presbyterian Church of
Hillsboro, N. C; of Buffalo Church near Greensboro; of Hawfields near
Graham; and of Antioch Church in Fayetteville Presbytery. He died on
February 13, 1924, and was buried in Thyatira Cemetery.
The Rev. John G. Varner, D.D., the son of Calvin M. and Cornelia
Carrigan Varner, graduated from Davidson College and Union Theological
Seminary and was ordained in November, 1900. He was pastor of a num-
ber of churches in Texas, where he was held in high esteem. He was
stated clerk of Paris Presbytery for a total of seventeen years and of
Dallas Presbytery for eight years. His last pastorate was at Bonham, Texas.
His death occurred April 24, 1942.
The Rev. James Floyd Menius, son of James M. and Martha Cook
Menius, graduated from Davidson College and Union Theological Semi-
nary and was ordained in 1915. For several years he was an evangelist in
Holston Presbytery. After that he was pastor of the Presbyterian Church
at Lillington, N. C. for seventeen years. From 1938 to 1943 he was pastor
of the Vanguard Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. Since 1943 he has been
pastor of a group of churches in Fayetteville Presbytery.
The Rev. Frank Fisher Baker, D.D., son of Samuel F. and Alice Houck
Baker, after graduating from Davidson College, spent several years in edu-
cational work in Brazil. After that he graduated from Union Theological
Seminary and was ordained in 1919- Since then he has devoted his life
to evangelistic and educational work in Brazil. In recognition of his ability
and distinguished service, Davidson College conferred upon him the
degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1937.
The Rev. Daniel T. Caldwell, D.D., son of John S. and Anna Brown
Caldwell, graduated from Davidson College and Union Theological Semi-
nary, and was ordained in July, 1917. He served as pastor of Immanuel
Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, N. C. (1918-1925), and of the Second
Presbyterian Church of Petersburg, Virginia (1925-1941), and was di-
rector of the Defense Service Council with headquarters in Richmond from
1941 to 1947. At present he is Director of Christian Education for the
A New Era 69
Synod of North Carolina. In 1941 he was Moderator of the Synod of
The Rev. Ernest Gilmer Clary, son of Thomas Lee and Emma Silliman
Clary, graduated from Davidson College in 1916, served as a soldier for
the duration of World War I, graduated from Union Theological Seminary
in 1922, and was ordained in July, 1922. He served as pastor at Murphy,
N. C, and Symrna, Georgia, and then served as Chaplain of the noted
Berry Schools, Rome, Georgia, for nine years. He is now pastor of Loyd
Church, La Grange, Georgia.
The Rev. William Payne Brown, son of the Rev. E. D. and Frances
Payne Brown, graduated from Davidson College and Union Theological
Seminary, and was ordained in July, 1930. For several years he was pastor
of the Presbyterian church in Edenton, N. C, and then of the Vanguard
Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. After that he was the missionary pastor
of Bream Memorial Church in Charleston, West Virginia. In 1938, because
of ill health, he retired from the active pastorate and went into business
in Charleston. He still continues to preach as he has opportunity and his
The Rev. Clyde R. McCubbins, D.D., son of J. Absalom and Elizabeth
( Bettie ) Lingle McCubbins, attended the Westminster Presbyterian School
and then served as a soldier and officer in the United States Army for a
dozen or more years. In the army he pursued a number of courses of study.
In 1928 he completed the course of study in Union Theological Seminary
and was ordained on July 15, 1928. Since then he has held pastorates in
Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Florida, and is now pastor at
Filbert, South Carolina.
The Rev. George Foyle Houck, the son of George F. and Fannie
Goodman Houck, is a graduate of Davidson College and Union Theo-
logical Seminary, and was ordained in July, 1931. He was pastor of a
group of churches near Lexington, Virginia, for five years, of Sinking
Springs Church in Virginia for four years, of Fuller Memorial Church in
Durham, N. C, for several years, and is now pastor at Candor, N. C.
The Rev. Samuel Miller Houck, son of George F. and Fannie Good-
man Houck, graduated from Maryville College, in Tennessee, and from
Union Theological Seminary, and was ordained in July, 1940. He served
as pastor at Narrows, Virginia for several years and is now pastor of Con-
cord Presbyterian Church in Iredell County, N. C.
Ella I. Graham, daughter of John K. and Mary Jane Graham, went as
a missionary to Korea in 1907, and after having rendered devoted and
70 Thyatira Presbyterian Church
heroic service for twenty-three years, passed to her eternal reward on
September 18, 1930. Her body was buried in Korea, but it is fitting that a
gravestone was erected to her memory in the family plot in the Thyatira
Myrtle Lingle McCubbins, daughter of J. Absalom and Elizabeth
(Bettie) Lingle McCubbins, graduated from the Western College for
Women, Oxford, Ohio, and went to China as a missionary under the
Board of Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., in 1907. After she
and her husband, the Rev. D. E. Crabb, had served many years in China,
they retired and are now living at Altadena, California.
Mary Lee Sloan, daughter of William J. and Kate Lingle Sloan, went
as a missionary to China in 1919- There she served with great fidelity
until driven out by the Japanese during World War II. Since that time she
has been working in the office of the Defense Service Council in Rich-
Elizabeth Corriher, daughter of George W. and Mrs. C. C. Corriher,
went to China as a graduate nurse in 1908 and rendered a large service in
connection with medical missions in China.
Two daughters of the church have married Presbyterian ministers
and along with their husbands have rendered a noble service. They are
Cora Belle Sloan (Mrs. D. T. Caldwell), daughter of William J. and Kate
Lingle Sloan; and Martha Houck (Mrs. J. Ray Dickens), daughter of
George F. and Fannie Goodman Houck.
Lucile Miller, daughter of E. Scott and Cornelia Sloop Miller, after
graduating from the General Assembly's Training School in Richmond,
and from the General Hospital in Philadelphia, engaged in religious and
public health work from 1930-1938, and then married Mr. J. W. Johnson,
who is a deacon in the First Presbyterian Church of Fayetteville. She is now
an active worker in that church.
Helen Jamison Miller, daughter of E. Scott and Cornelia Sloop Miller,
after having studied at Catawba College, taught school for a number of
years and then in 1933 married Rev. Roy Chase Whisenhunt a minister of
the Evangelical and Reformed Church. As the wife of the minister she has
been active in the work of the Church. Their home is now in Concord,
In addition to these sons and daughters, I have before me the names
of sixteen descendents of Thyatira who entered the ministry, and three
women who have done missionary work. These might be called grandsons
DAUGHTERS OF THE CHURCH
Mrs. Myrtle McCubbins Crabb Miss Mary Lee Sloan
Miss Ella Graham
Miss Elizabeth Corriher, r.n. Mrs. Martha Houck Dickens
A New Era 71
and granddaughters. When these are added to the sons and daughters, it
makes a goodly list.
To these should be added the laymen and laywomen who have gone
out from Thyatira into other churches and other states and have there been
consecrated church workers. And to all these should be added the hundreds
and even thousands, of men and women who have, during the past two
hundred years, lived in the Thyatira community and rendered a conse-
crated service to the Lord through the mother church. All these forces
put together make a great host. When we think of it, we begin to realize
that the Lord has done marvelous things in and through the influence of
the church which our forefathers planted in the wilderness nearly two
hundred years ago. Its influence has gone out into the uttermost parts of
O God of Bethel, by whose hand
Thy people still are fed,
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led.
Our vows, our prayers we now present
Before Thy throne of Grace
God of our fathers, be the God
Of their succeeding race.
1. Minutes of the Session and other records of Thyatira Church.
2. Minutes of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia.
3. Inscriptions on the five hundred and more gravestones in Thyatira
4. Deeds and documents in the Office of Register of Deeds in Salisbury,
5. Documents in the Historical Foundation at Montreat, N. C.
6. Minutes of Orange and Concord Presbyteries.
7. Minutes of the General Assembly.
8. Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit.
9. History of Thyatira by Drs. S. C. Alexander and T. W. Lingle.
10. History of Rowan County by Dr. Jethro Rumple.
11. Sketches of North Carolina by Dr. William Henry Foote.
12. History of the University of North Carolina by Dr. Kemp P. Battle.
13. The Prophet of Zion-Parnassus by James F. Hurley and Julia Goode
Where authorities disagree as to dates and facts, as they
frequently do, I have recorded what seemed to be the truth
after weighing the evidences.